Olivier Giroud’s switch from Arsenal to Chelsea in January did come as a surprise to many, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see that he’s hit the ground running at Stamford Bridge.
His recent performances for Chelsea have left many wondering how summer signing Alvaro Morata gets back in to Antonio Conte’s team, but should he come back in to the starting XI to face Barcelona on Tuesday night, or does Giroud deserve to keep his place?
Our writers have had their say below…
For me, the answer is simple. Alvaro Morata hasn’t scored in eight matches and has been injured for the past few weeks. If you compare that to Olivier Giroud’s sizzling start in a Chelsea shirt – in which he has three assists and one goal in his last two games – then there is only one answer, the Frenchman must start.
However, Chelsea’s next five fixtures include two legs against Barcelona and away ties at the two Manchester clubs leading the way in the Premier League, so you’d think there will be game time for both of Conte’s strikers in this busy schedule.
The Blues will want to take a solid result to the Nou Camp in the second-leg and I believe starting Giroud will give them the best chance of doing so.
If I was Chelsea manager I would seriously consider giving the Barcelona backline something to think about by playing both of them, but Conte is probably likely to be a little more cautious and for me Giroud has to get the nod.
The Frenchman has plenty of experience of playing on the big stage in the Champions League and his all-round centre-forward play can help bring others like Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian into play against the La Liga giants. Morata has struggled with that aspect of his games at times this season, and that means that he should be the one benched on Tuesday night.
I’m a huge fan of what Giroud has already brought to this Chelsea side, chiefly the ability to consistently bring the Blues’ top two talents – Willian and Eden Hazard – into the game around the penalty box and I’d like to see the Frenchman be first choice for the rest of the season.
But for this specific game, I think Morata is the better candidate. Giroud’s qualities will be better served away at Old Trafford at the weekend and Morata boasts a pretty strong record in the Champions League, netting 12 in 40 in total despite primarily featuring as a substitute including two semi-final goals and a goal in the 2014/15 final.
He should be pretty fresh after spending the last few games on the bench too, and if anything Giroud’s strong start at Stamford Bridge should spur him on towards a higher level of performance – especially against the bitter rivals of his boyhood club Real Madrid.
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but this will not be an easy game for Chelsea. The away goals rule and the fact that trips from London to other major western European cities aren’t the pilgrimages they might have been decades ago mean that the home leg of this tie will be about keeping a clean sheet and hoping to score at the Nou Camp in the return fixture. For that reason, Olivier Giroud is Chelsea’s best bet up front.
Quite apart from Morata’s current slump and his return from injury – which are compelling reasons to start the Frenchman anyway – the former Arsenal striker will offer more of a target-man approach up front, allowing Chelsea to defend deep and attempt to frustrate one of Europe’s best attacks whilst also having a player in attack to hold the ball up and link with the pace and threat of Eden Hazard and Willian on the counter.
Chelsea’s best chance of beating the La Liga leaders is clearly pace on the counter-attack, and whilst Giroud doesn’t provide that, he certainly will make those who can more effective.
If you told me at the start of the season that Chelsea would be starting Olivier Giroud ahead of new star signing Alvaro Morata in a crucial knockout Champions League tie against Barcelona, I’d have laughed in your face.
However, circumstances are what they are and there’s no doubt that this week the French international is the way to go in a match that they must show aggression and determination in to have any chance of winning. Chelsea can’t afford to see the kind of passive performance from Morata that we already know he is capable of in big matches.
The Blues’ key man will be Eden Hazard so it’s about finding the right player to complement him and we’ve seen so far that his partnership with Giroud is a potentially exciting one for supporters.
Giroud has scored as many career goals in the Champions League as Morata (12), despite playing less minutes overall, so the perceived drop in quality is not huge and the Frenchman is in form, fit and more motivated than ever to produce a performance.