It’s been a vintage year, 2018, for Olivier Giroud, but it’s ending on a slightly worrying note.
It began with a bit of injury then a big decision to join cross-town rivals Chelsea after 6.5 seasons at Arsenal. He arrived as a backup but finished the season as the starter, getting the nod in the FA Cup final as Chelsea ended the Antonio Conte era on a positive note. Giroud then went off to Russia with France and played the vast majority of minutes in their triumphant World Cup campaign. He did so without actually scoring a goal, which was not only a statistical anomaly, but underlined just how crucial he was in all phases of play. He continued that trend with Chelsea at the start of the new season under a new head coach.
But lately, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan. He’s fallen behind Álvaro Morata in the pecking order for the first time ever. His assists have dried up. An injury had crept back in. And this week, he and the rest of his World Cup-winning French team produced their worst result in some time, getting completely outplayed by a young and rebuilding Netherlands outfit.
Giroud wasn’t looking to make excuses for France’s 2-0 humbling and urged the team to take responsibility, own up to their poor performance, and learn from it, and that’s the sort of attitude he’ll be bringing back with him to Chelsea as well, when the season resumes next weekend.
“Today, I am calm, happy with this World Cup title. I relativise a lot of things. I don’t need to put myself under more pressure than that. Of course, I am a competitor and I would like more playing time. But I am in a very big club, with very big players. I am going to fight and for the moment, it is not a question about seeking a departure. I am going to stick in there and do not count on me to give up.”
Giroud, who has a little over six months left on his contract, has been saying all the right things since he showed up at Cobham, and even when Chelsea’s season started collapsing both in the Premier League and the Champions League, he remained one of the few consistently positive influences in the team. Now, with Chelsea’s results going better than expected in the first few months of Sarri’s tenure, Giroud just needs to focus on his own “healthy” competition with Morata.
“I came back late from the World Cup. Morata played. In the national team in September, with this goal against the Netherlands, that did me good. After that, when I came back to Chelsea, I played, several matches as a starter. Today, the coach has introduced healthy competition. Morata started again, he played well. It is true that we were having issues in the effectiveness department, he scored, and things are going better.”
-Olivier Giroud; source: Téléfoot via GFFN
Starting on Saturday, twice-weekly (if not more frequent) matches for two straight months await Chelsea. Whether it’s Morata or Giroud, or hopefully both, we’re going to need goals, goals, and more goals to ensure a good first season for Sarri-ball.