Olivier Giroud joined Chelsea on transfer deadline day last January, to replace Michy Batshuayi as Álvaro Morata’s backup, but by the end of the season, those roles would be unquestionably reversed. Giroud started 4 of the last 5 league games as Chelsea made a late push for the top four and also got the nod in both the FA Cup semifinal and final wins. All told, he played 200 more minutes than Morata, then Chelsea’s record signing, during the second half of last season. And while neither striker scored enough goals (5 vs 4, in the former Arsenal-man’s favor), Chelsea simply “looked” better with Giroud. He fit the idea and the requirements of a target man in Conte’s system much better than the oft-injured and often lacking in confidence Morata.
With new coach Maurizio Sarri in town and a new system that seemed like a better fit for the more mobile and technical Morata, not to mention confident words and intentions from the man himself, there was some hope that he would quickly blossom once again, just as he promised to do so at the very start of his spell at Chelsea. Four games into the season, the returns have been ... mixed ... at best.
It is no wonder that Giroud, whose minutes have been on the rise since getting a late start to preseason thanks to winning the World Cup with France, sounds quite confident in being able to beat out Morata once again for that starting spot at the top of the formation.
“The competition is healthy with Morata. Last year, I managed to win my place. There is no reason that this is not the case this year.
”The most important thing is to be decisive when [the coach] calls on me, and I obviously hope to have more play time after the [international] break.”
-Olivier Giroud; source: Canal+ via FourFourTwo
Famously, Giroud played a key role at the World Cup, starting six of France’s seven matches, despite scoring no goals at all, proving once again that there can be more to playing striker than just end product.
Giroud’s aggression and intelligence means that he can make an impact even when his involvement is limited and the goals aren’t flowing. Didier Drogba was excellent at this, as was Diego Costa, which meant that even if they didn’t score — and Drogba only was truly prolific in 2 of his 9 seasons at Chelsea — they contributed in other ways. Giroud is able to that as well, much more so than Morata.
So while Morata has had a head start by being involved from the very start of the Sarri era, the veteran Frenchman is certainly making a strong case for himself.
“It’s similar to what we had with Conte. We do a lot of tactical work, he’s very rigorous and precise in his vision of football.”
“I came back late, and for sure it’ll take me a bit of time to be prepared. That’s just my case. I’ve got a little gas. I’ve tried to bring more to the team, and in the last couple of matches I’ve been decisive.”
It is too soon to write off Morata, but as Sarri says, he needs to improve. The recently recalled Spanish international is still only in his mid-20s, and he has four years left on his Chelsea contract, so there should be time.
For Giroud, the timelines are much more immediate. He has but this year left on the short-term contract he signed in January, although he’s hoping that Chelsea will pick up the option for an additional year later this season.
“I still have one year of contract, plus possibly another year.”
“The board of the club have been positive in terms of giving me it. I do not know yet, we’ll see how things are in April or May, but I won’t exclude any possibility. We’ll see.”
-Olivier Giroud; source: Canal+ via Goal.com
At age 31, Giroud will not get a longer commitment than that from the club as per policy, but if he keeps going as he has since for us since January, there’s little reason to think that Chelsea wouldn’t want him around, on or off the pitch.