The return of football has seen a number of Chelsea players in fine form. Christian Pulisic has excelled with eight goal contributions in eight league games, while N’Golo Kanté has been back to his best after an injury layoff.
But perhaps no one has capitalised better on the game’s three-month hiatus than a certain French forward.
Olivier Giroud was far from a first-team regular at Chelsea and, although he signed a one-year contract extension in May, his game time had been limited.
Giroud had featured in just 31% of the Blues’ games before football’s suspension, playing second fiddle to Tammy Abraham. For the man who not even two years prior had won the World Cup, three goals in 13 games made for concerning reading.
Yet since the Premier League returned in June, the Frenchman has endured a remarkable renaissance.
Giroud’s gametime has tripled, scoring six goals in nine games as the Blues sit on the brink of the Champions League. His seven league goals have won eight points alone – without them, Chelsea would be down in seventh, fighting for a place in the Europa League qualifiers.
His impact has been vital for Frank Lampard, seizing the opportunity to lead the line in style. The stats tell one story of his significance, but the results tell another: Only Liverpool have beaten Chelsea – albeit on two occasions – when Giroud has scored.
While he is the second-oldest player in the squad behind Willy Caballero, a top-four finish and FA Cup victory are in sight thanks to the Frenchman. Giroud has turned up when it matters, with his goalscoring instinct and vast experience proving crucial.
What Giroud brings to Chelsea is not just goals – it is so much more.
Renowned as one of the best holdup play strikers in the world, the 33-year-old is now at the heart of almost every Blues attack. Whether it is his victorious duels with defenders or linking up with wingers, Giroud’s role extends past putting the ball in the net.
He has formed strong partnerships with the wide men, looking at ease with Pulisic and Willian either side of him. Mason Mount is also flourishing thanks to the addition of Giroud, gaining more freedom and space across the pitch thanks to the veteran striker.
Chelsea not only look more fluid with him, but he provides another source of creativity and goals. He offers experience in a youthful setup, goals among a team often lacking a cutting edge, reliability in an inconsistent squad. Where would they be without Giroud? It is hard to fathom how they coped without him the majority of the season.
Where Giroud fits in next season remains a question for the future, with the current focus on a massive final two weeks.
Sunday’s Premier League finale against Wolves will decide their European fate, needing a point to qualify for the Champions League. The Blues then go for their ninth FA Cup in the Final against Arsenal, before travelling to Bavaria to conclude their round of 16 tie with Bayern Munich.
Chelsea need to be at their very best to end the season on a high – and that includes Giroud continuing his fine form up top. He has hit his stride at the perfect time, and will need to be as clinical as ever if the Blues want to grab three wins from three. None of them provide easy tests, but that is where he flourishes best.
A World Cup winner among academy graduates, it is no surprise to see Giroud capitalising on his gametime, valiantly driving the Blues onto victory. He remained part of Lampard’s setup for a reason, clearly valued as a key player. Now he is in full flow, there could be no stopping the fantastic forward.
These final few games could define Chelsea’s season, providing some of their toughest tests yet. They need to score, perform and be at the top of their game, and thanks to the Frenchman, they are on the verge of something special.
It is time for Giroud to shine.
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