Olivier Giroud entered the season as Chelsea’s third-choice striker, but as he’s done repeatedly over his long career, he’s proven himself far more valuable than that. And unlike last season, he didn’t even have to wait until January to start playing!
In fact, Giroud has led the team in goals for the 2020 calendar year — not a useful period of measure, really, though a mildly interesting one — and he’s done so at best-in-class efficiency. No other Premier League player with at least 5 goals to his name in 2020 has scored more frequently than the 34-year-old veteran, and that includes the likes of Sergio Agüero, Mohamed Salah, Bamfordinho, and Bruno Penaldes.
Christian Pulisic recently said on an interview with Sky Sports that Olivier Giroud is the best finisher at Chelsea.— Yan (@ChelseaYannick) January 2, 2021
Here is more evidence. pic.twitter.com/9gBY4xCygZ
Giroud’s 11 Premier League goals came in just 1167 minutes. For comparison, Tammy Abraham, who led Chelsea in goals in 2019-20 but fell off significantly in the second half of the season, had just 9 league goals in 1507 minutes in 2020 (167 minutes-per-goal). That’s not terrible by any stretch, especially considering that he offers a bit more dynamic play up front than Giroud, who has been credited with just 1 assist in all competitions since Eden Hazard left, but it’s still significantly worse.
So what’s the secret to Giroud’s success then? As he explains to Sky Sports, it’s all about making the right moves.
“My main strength has never been my pace. [...] As a striker, if you want to get free from the defender, you have to make a first run and then after that another run. You feint to go to the far post but end up going to the first post. It is all about that movement to get free from your defender to receive the ball.”
“Of course, there are certain situations in a game where you do have to go to the far post because there is congestion at the first post. It does depend on the situation. But as a striker, as a No 9, you sometimes have to make the run just to move the defender to free the space up behind you for another player. When the cross comes to the first post and you are ahead of the defender you are there to finish and you can surprise the ‘keeper. That is why I like to do this movement. I work on it a lot in training.”
Obviously all that training and work with the full backs (especially Ben Chilwell) is paying off handsomely. And while Giroud may not be as dynamic as Abraham, that isn’t to say that he doesn’t link up with his fellow attacking players. He just does it as more of a classic target man, which the likes of the aforementioned Hazard used to enjoy greatly.
Eden once called Giroud maybe the greatest target man in the world, and while their careers have diverged recently, Oli hasn’t forgotten about those days either.
“It is very rare that I am in the position of facing the goal and I can just go for a shot with a few touches. I have done it a few times when I am in this position, I can remember a few. But most of the time I have my back to the goal and I am trying to set others up with a one-two. I used to do that a lot with Eden Hazard, for example.
“My type of game is more to set up the others and just being alive in the box and ready to finish well. It is something I practise a lot, I try to be quick in the box and finish as quickly as I can. [When] you are in the penalty box, you always know that you do not have much time to finish. There is always going to be a defender nearby so you have a better chance of scoring when you shoot with your first touch. That is why I try to work on it every day in training.”
Giroud’s emphasis on training is undoubtedly music to Frank Lampard’s ears (or any coach’s probably). And it’s also part of the attitude and mentality that makes keeping Giroud in the squad beneficial not just on the scoreboard.
“It is all about your quality and your talent. I have been doing this all my career and that is thanks to the work that I have done in training and the quality of my finishing. I try to maintain the quality. My strength is the way I head the ball and finish. I try to keep that up.”
“It is not random. There is nothing random when you score goals. Never. It cannot be that you are just lucky. You are relentless and resilient. You always keep believing. That is one of the main qualities of a striker. You never stop and you always believe that you are going to score even if you miss the first one or the second one.”
Speaking of not stopping, Giroud’s once again into the final six months of his Chelsea contract, though rumors of a January exit have largely died out since his minutes became more regular. While you never know what the future may hold, for now, it looks like OG’s here to stay for a bit longer.
“We will see what happens in the next few months but I just want to keep my efficiency high. When I am not on the pitch, I just try to be a part of the team. I really want the best for this team and I really believe we have a big opportunity to win something at Chelsea with this great squad. I will just carry on like this and try to keep it up.”
-Olivier Giroud; source: Sky
Sounds good to me!