There are few feelings as pure and uplifting as a last-second winner in a football match, especially one that assures your team’s qualification for the next round of a competition. And when that winner is scored by a most popular member of the squad, one who hasn’t been playing much at all, we get the elation seen at the end of Chelsea’s 2-1 win at Rennes today.
In the 91st minute, Oliver Giroud’s Meaty French Forehead rose magisterially to get to a high looping ball and generate impossible power on a header that blasted beyond the despairing goalkeeper and a defender on the line and into the back of the net. The three points thus won have ensured Chelsea’s qualification for the knockout rounds of this season’s Champions League.
But the goal was meaningful on a personal level for Giroud as well. Not only was it his second of the season (in eight appearances though only 178 minutes), it came at a time when questions about his future are starting to come to a head. The 34-year-old is expected to be leaving in January in search of more gametime in order to maintain his spot in the French national team, though Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard is still holding out hope that he can convince the veteran striker to stay just like last January.
“I think Oli knows, even when he hasn’t played all the time, I hope he knows how much I am happy with his and rely on him in moments. Every player wants to play every game, that’s an impossible part of my job to keep them all happy. Hopefully he knows and is content. He got minutes, he came on today and there will be games he starts for us as well. That is hopefully we keep moving forward in that way.”
Giroud’s situation mirrors his situation from the first half of last year, so Lampard’s hope isn’t necessarily misplaced. But with both Abraham and Werner in good form (though the latter certainly needs to reset his targeting computer), Giroud’s chances have been few and far between. Only one of his eight appearances has been a start, and while Lampard talks about the holiday period as a potential opportunity to add to that number, it may all be too little too late.
“It’s a selection issue for me and I need that. The fact we are playing every three days, maybe two days over Christmas unless the scheduling gets sorted. With Oli it’s hard to say that I have to prove to him, because all I have to do is myself just look game by game and plan for the best for us. At the moment Tammy is in great form as well and I have to pick on face value what is best for us.”
Trouble is, what’s best “for us” may not be what’s best for Olivier at this point. He may be the ultimate professional, one who sets an example on and off the pitch, but at the end of the day, he needs to play as well. It’s not personal, it’s business, especially at this point in his career, with one last chance to shine on the international change and make France football history.
“[...] the things behind the scenes, everybody kind of feels from the outside to be fair what a great professional he is and how highly-regarded he is by his team-mates and myself.
“So for him to get a goal, you saw the reaction of his team-mates, he’s so professional in how he trains and looks after himself that age isn’t even a factor for him. He’s getting better with age if anything in terms of how he looks after himself. So he offers a lot for us and I keep saying it but the big schedule coming up and the way we play means I will rely on players.
“So thankfully for me he’s a player that always keeps the right attitude if he’s not playing regularly, and I know when I call upon him that he comes in as he did today.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
We all love Giroud, so, as they often say, the best thing might be to set him free.