On Saturday, Olivier Giroud started for Chelsea for the first time since mid-August and put in a performance commensurate with his precipitous drop from first-choice at the end of last season to third-choice just a few weeks into this season. Granted, Chelsea’s overall performance left a lot to be desired as well, but Giroud’s was perhaps the worst of all the bad performances in the 1-0 loss to West Ham at home.
Not even Frank Lampard could really ignore it, nor put a positive enough spin on it afterwards.
“It was a difficult game for [Giroud] obviously. He probably didn’t get enough ball, and then the couple of chances he had didn’t go in for him, so a tough match for him but he wasn’t the only one who comes into a team and a performance that was slightly off it.”
“I don’t want to talk about match fitness or sharpness because we train hard here. I get it, I was a player and when you’re not playing regularly your need for games is big, but we have to be ready to try and come in. We shouldn’t isolate individuals because they haven’t played, because then you could talk about a player who has been playing every game and wasn’t quite sharp. The reasons are not always as they seem.”
Giroud’s start was semi-surprising given the fact that Michy Batshuayi has been serving as the primary backup to Tammy Abraham for most of the season. In fact, before not playing at all on Saturday, Batshuayi had made an appearance off the bench in 11 of the previous 17 matches in all competitions, including the last 5 straight. After all, substituting the lone striker is a fairly standard and beneficial move, which tends to put the player coming on in an advantageous statistical (xG) situation (fresh legs vs. tired defenders, etc).
Lampard subbing off Abraham for Batshuayi every single game in the 60-75 minute range is so smart, free money almost every other manager regularly leaves on the table— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) November 23, 2019
And Batshuayi had been repaying this faith by being involved in multiple great chances and a few goals as well, most notably the late winner against Ajax — not to mention getting on the scoresheet regularly when he did get to start in the Cup games (3 goals and 1 assist in the two League Cup matches we got to play this season).
Lampard did not (could not?) offer an actual explanation for this choice. With Giroud likely on his way out in January anyway, it’s not easy to see why he opted for the World Cup-winner, though perhaps he imagined Giroud could provide more help in breaking down the expected massed ranks of Hammers’ defenders.
“Michy’s had a lot of performances to come on recently and made a difference in certain games, but it was just the choice for this game.”
But that line of thinking is not backed up by Lampard’s substitutions, which eventually moved Christian Pulisic into the center forward position. Pulisic may be pretty good in the air for a speedy and light winger, but he’s never going to be confused for a striker. Still, that experiment, which had its genesis back at Borussia Dortmund, may yet continue in the near future.
“We’ll see. He does have an ability to run behind the line, and to be sharp in central areas which will naturally get him more goals. I am not going to say right now if that is the solution, but we will see as we go forward.”
None of that is engendering much confidence for the upcoming Premier League and Champions League matches, which is a problem as after failing to win 4 of our last 5 games in all competitions, we’re desperately in need of getting back on the winning track in both competitions.
Abraham, who’s as complete a forward as any 22-year-old has a right to be, had been hopeful of returning soon from his hip injury when asked over the weekend, but Lampard’s a bit more cautious.
“We will find out more today and tomorrow. He needs to get outside and move a little bit outside over the next two days.”
-Frank Lampard; Source: Chelsea FC
Less than 48 hours to go until Aston Villa’s John Terry-coached defense arrives at Stamford Bridge. Get well soon, Tammy!