Despite all the transfer chaos surrounding Chelsea at the moment, one piece of good news for the Blues was the announcement on their official website that Olivier Giroud had signed a new contract with the club.
The Frenchman’s existing deal was coming to an end this summer, but the club have now moved to keep him for another campaign at Stamford Bridge. With the prospect of a transfer ban on the horizon, Giroud’s new deal may just turn out to be one of Chelsea’s wisest decisions in recent years.
After Maurizio Sarri reunited with former charge Gonzalo Higuain, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Giroud’s long-term future in London. But in a surprising twist of fate, Higuain’s lacklustre performances since arriving on loan have prompted suggestions that the 31-year-old’s stay will not be extended.
As such, Giroud is likely to be the club’s leading striker for next season unless there happens to be a dramatic turn of events with their impending transfer ban. The Frenchman has often been unjustly ridiculed for not being one of the Premier League’s ‘elite strikers’ – but looking deeper at his numbers appears to suggest that he has been wrongly overlooked.
In his 834 minutes of football in the top-flight this season, the former Arsenal striker has scored two times and provided a further four assists, whilst his influence in Chelsea’s run to the Europa League final has been nothing short of remarkable: 10 goals and three assists has seen him show Sarri and the Blues faithful what he can do when given regular starting opportunities.
The big talking point for Chelsea fans all summer will be the future of Eden Hazard. Whilst many supporters will understandably rue the winger’s departure, it could lift the goal-scoring ratio and influence of Giroud no end.
So much of the Stamford Bridge side’s game-plan has come through Hazard this season, often just giving the ball to the Belgian wherever on the pitch and just saying ‘Go on Eden, help us out’. The wonderful solo goal against West Ham was evidence of that. But with the 28-year-old gone, Sarri may be forced to use Giroud to his actual strengths and make the rest of his players fit around that.
No more tiki-taka passing just for the sake of it, but crosses into the box from the likes of Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta from either flank. It may sound old-school and it is difficult at the moment to see a stubborn manager like Sarri opt for that approach, but with the transfer ban and Hazard’s exit, he might not have any choice.
So whilst it appears to be all doom and gloom for now for Chelsea fans, Giroud’s new contract might be the silver lining in what is a very dark and stormy cloud.