Does Olivier Giroud get the credit he deserves?
The World Cup, four-time FA Cup, and Puskas Award winner, with 78 Premier League goals to his name is often derided. From the social media reaction to his performances in Russia, you would have thought that he was responsible for losing every game rather than playing a key role in winning the tournament.
He has netted over ten goals in every season he’s played in the Premier League until the most recent one, when he only started seven games. And even though he didn’t register a single shot on target in Russia, let alone a goal, it’s foolish to criticise him for his contribution to the team.
The 31-year-old didn’t start France’s first game of the tournament in which they stuttered to a 2-1 win against a poor Australia side thanks to the intervention of VAR. Didier Deschamps soon realised his mistake and started the target-man for every subsequent game to great effect.
Over the course of the tournament, the Chelsea striker won a massive 23 aerial duels, key moments which allowed Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann to run in behind. With nine tackles and seven key passes, it’s easy to see what the striker brought to the team.
It’s very easy to judge a striker on their goal return and often this is their main function in a team. However, when the France side boasts such incredible attacking talent as Mbappé and Griezmann, they need a player like Giroud to act as the focal point for the two speedsters to play off of.
In the same way that Roberto Firmino plays as a defensive forward for Liverpool and brings Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane into the game by dropping back and drawing their defenders in, Giroud’s function is not as a goalscorer. Of course, Firmino is doubly good because he has a fantastic goal return on top of his tireless work, but this is not his primary function in Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Chelsea can draw inspiration from France’s success as they look forward to the new season. No one knows which of Chelsea’s players will be there next season, but if they can retain players like Willian and Eden Hazard who like to run in behind defences, Maurizio Sarri can use Giroud’s aerial ability to their advantage.
It’s time for fans to stop judging players on such basic statistics and understand what they can offer the team, as this can be so much more valuable than a selfish goalscorer who plays for himself and wastes good opportunities.