In January 2018, Chelsea were in search of a center forward who could hold up the ball and bring others, like Hazard and Pedro and Willian into play. Across town, Olivier Giroud, pushed down the pecking order by Alexandre Lacazette and the incoming Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, was in search of more playing time, especially with the 2018 World Cup just around the corner.
On deadline day, the dominoes fell. Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi moved to Borussia Dortmund, replacing Aubameyang who moved to Arsenal, replacing Giroud who moved to Chelsea for £18m, signing an 18-month contract with an additional 12-month option. While Chelsea did not manage to leverage that move into a top-four finish, Giroud did upstage Álvaro Morata and earned the start in Chelsea’s FA Cup final win over Manchester United. As a bonus, he also got the France call at the expense of Lacazette, and would end up playing a major role in Les Bleus World Cup triumph as well.
Next Wednesday, Giroud and Chelsea will come face-to-face with Aubameyang and Lacazette and Arsenal in the Europa League final. As one would expect, Giroud wants to win for his current team, though he also makes it quite clear that it’s not just his professional duty that makes it so. It’s also personal.
“I always like playing against my old teams. It’s going to be tough, and it could be painful if it’s not going the right way, but you have to put the feelings and memories aside. I enjoyed the years I spent there. It has been a big part of my career, my first club in England and it will always be special, but now I feel my blood is blue. The same as the national team, blue suits me well.
“I settled in quickly [at Chelsea]. I felt like part of the family straight away. I knew a few of the players and I’m a sociable person, I always try to communicate. It wasn’t difficult to integrate. I always see it as a new challenge. I couldn’t have hoped for it to be better. And now I want to win my second trophy with Chelsea. To finish as top scorer and help my team. Our target is to win a trophy every season and this is the last chance.”
Chelsea vs. Arsenal may no longer have the cachet of a Mourinho vs. Wenger heavy-weight bout, but it’s still seen as a clash of club ideologies. For Giroud, uniquely placed to comment having experienced both in recent years, that classic difference in emphasis (youth and “beauty” vs. winning and winning) is still there, especially when it comes to chances for younger players — even if Chelsea are seemingly improving in that regard as of late.
“The main difference is Arsenal always tried to give the chances to the young players. It felt like more players formed at the club could have the opportunity to play. Maybe you would get more time at Arsenal. They would be more patient.
“At Chelsea you have to be ready quickly because in terms of trophies it has been the best club in England for the last 10 years. You don’t have time at Chelsea and when you are young it is quite difficult to find your place. You can see we have a very good academy producing very good players and a few of them are in the first team and that is a good example for the future generation.
“I don’t want to kill the dreams of these young Chelsea players. They are very talented, but it makes sense because Chelsea invest more in every transfer window and they buy more top players in the world who are more experienced.
“I am just being honest. People who know football and the Premier League and these two clubs, they know Arsene Wenger could not spend too much money. It was the philosophy of the club and because of that — or thanks to that — he would give the opportunity to young players.”
Ironically, one of those experienced players is Giroud himself, and with reports of Chelsea exercising the one-year extension in his contract, he’s probably sticking around for one more season of winning things. The deal is not completely resolved yet, but it’s close.
“I feel very happy at the club. Maybe I need a bit more game-time but I won’t give up. That’s my mentality. That’s how I’m made. It’s not sorted yet but we are talking about another year.”
- Olivier Giroud; source: Daily Mail
As things stand, Giroud’s set to start his second major final for Chelsea. Let’s make it two wins from two.