independent: Chelsea made a statement of intent by securing a striker’s signature. Needless to say, it wasn’t getting Olivier Giroud to extend his contract, though they did last month.
Timo Werner represents the future, the outlier, perhaps an isolated display of ambition in a depressed transfer market. Giroud feels the perennial understudy, benched for Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain and Tammy Abraham, Chelsea’s eternal second, except for when Michy Batshuayi demoted him to third in line. Keeping him was austerity-era economics, buying Werner in a pandemic the real eye-catching move.
Yet while the German has opted out of the remainder of RB Leipzig’s Champions League campaign, for a few minutes the thought occurred that he might not play among the European elite for 15 months. Until Christian Pulisic and Giroud, two who may be affected by his impending arrival, transformed a deficit into a lead against Aston Villa. Chelsea’s spenders look likelier to play in the Champions League again.
Werner and Hakim Ziyech may be in the remodelled forward line when Chelsea next venture into Europe; perhaps even Kai Havertz will be too. Abraham, the top scorer, could be. But Giroud, English football’s most decorated afterthought, is actually the man in possession of the striker’s role. Selected in winter, a scorer against Tottenham and Everton, he retained his place in summer and delivered what Frank Lampard called “the deflected winner” at Aston Villa. There was no criticism in that from a manager self-deprecating enough to admit he scored a few deflected goals in his time.
The decision to omit Abraham was justified. “Oli doesn’t have to repay my faith,” Lampard said. “I think he deserves to start [with] the way he trains, his quality and how professional he is. He has scored goals throughout his career. He is big as a player and big as a person.”
And yet who is the starter feels like a subplot. Lampard has spoken to Abraham about what Werner’s arrival means for him. Giroud has seen his position imperilled by glamorous signings, or the prospect of them, almost annually. “It’s exciting for what’s to come,” said Pulisic, who may be affected by the £50million German’s ability to play off the left but another of the next generation who could be found in a futuristic forward line. Giroud should be the last thirty-something in attack when Pedro and Willian go. He looks an endangered species.
He feels like every season’s stopgap, the man who has to win his managers over on an yearly basis. He ended Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri’s reigns in the team and winning Cup finals. Lampard initially did not want a target man, a back-to-goal striker feeling a man out of time when pace and pressing assumed more importance. Yet against teams who defend as deep as Villa, speed is less of a factor. Now Giroud has three goals in four league games, even if such statistics feel a little odd. He has persuaded Lampard.
It may not be enough as upgrades await. The presumption is Giroud will be relegated to the supporting cast, if not sold after seeing out this season. And yet that conforms to the theme of his Premier League career: he often feels underestimated.
Welcome to the Giroud paradox. He is the World Cup winner hunting down Michel Platini’s total of goals for France and wondering if he might even reach Thierry Henry’s national record but with the undercurrent he is not quite good enough for capital clubs who do not get to such heights.
The counter-argument is that Giroud brings more from better players. The intelligence he showed to create the space for the winner at Villa Park allows him to adapt. Mesut Ozil’s finest form in England came alongside Giroud. Eden Hazard appreciated his ability to play quick one-twos in close quarters so much he called Giroud the best target man in the world. He was the selfless sidekick to Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. Werner and Ziyech might sense a man who can help them play. Werner, in particular, may see someone ideally equipped to take on Yussuf Poulsen’s role as the physical foil to a faster, more prolific player.
Or maybe Giroud, a scorer in Chelsea’s last three league wins, a reason why they now have a commanding position in the quest for Champions League football, will get a watching brief, sat in the dugout as a younger, more glamorous and expensive attack take on Europe’s finest. In its own way, it would be rather symbolic.
Source: Published by independent