When Olivier Giroud inevitably calls time on his glorious three-and-a-half-year spell at Chelsea this summer, he will do so as a club legend. Having signed in January 2018 as part of the bizarre three-way striker swap that saw Arsenal break the bank for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Borussia Dortmund compensated with the loan signing of Michy Batshuayi, Giroud had to win over a sceptical fanbase. It was a move that did little to inspire Chelsea fans, who were beginning to worry about a lack of end-product from big money summer signing Alvaro Morata, whom after a red-hot start had netted just once in his last 6 appearances before Giroud had arrived and succumbed to two different injuries. His Arsenal connection and age (he was already 31) did nothing to ease doubts. However, the Frenchman went on to become the Blues’ top scorer in successful Champions League and Europa League campaigns in 2020/21 and 2018/19 respectively, as well as being a crucial component to the sides’ 2018 FA Cup win and strong finish to the 2019/20 season post-lockdown. Scorer of goals you and I could only dream of bagging, a dedicated servant who stayed even when more gametime was available elsewhere, we should always remain indebted to one of the league’s most underrated strikers.
Looking at Giroud’s Chelsea career from the viewpoint of cold, hard numbers, the Frenchman netted 17 times from just 33 starts in the league (one every 187 minutes) and an astonishing 17 goals from only 15 starts in Europe – an absurd record of a goal every 86 minutes! – for the Blues. His sensational European goalscoring record actually makes him the club’s third top scorer in continental competitions of all time behind only the mythical duo of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard. However, there is so much more to Giroud and his legend than just goalscoring figures and there are many more reasons that he will stay in the hearts and minds of Chelsea fans for a very long time.
Giroud has now won more-or-less everything there is to win: a World Cup with France, the continental club double and a domestic cup with Chelsea as well as one of the most unexpected Ligue 1 triumphs ever with Montpellier which prompted his move to Arsenal in 2012. As well as being a prolific winner he has also made a name for himself as the man who scores crucial goals for his side (very much in the ilk of Drogba). The Frenchman has netted in a Europa league final, secured the Blue’s a place in the FA Cup final in 2018 with his incredible dribble and poked finish against Southampton and bagged an incredible bicycle kick to break the deadlock in a tight last-16 away leg against Atletico Madrid this season. The period that will surely pop to mind when Chelsea fans reminisce about the bearded genius is his remarkable form post-lockdown last season which lead to Chelsea securing Champions League football this year (and we all know how that turned out!). He scored 6 goals in 8 starts post-lockdown, with the Blues losing feebly against West Ham and Sheffield United on the only occasions that he did not begin the game on the field.
Stop-start would be a good way to describe Giroud’s time in West London. The Frenchman has often been left on the bench behind Tammy Abraham or sometime even left out of the squad entirely due to the presence of Michy Batshuayi and yet when called upon he has always delivered. To keep that match sharpness and concentration despite missing months of football at a time is an incredible asset that Giroud has honed (beginning with his time at the Emirates) but even more impressive still is his temperament. There are not many World Cup winners who would take being deputy to a 22-year-old with limited game time well (let alone when they are the second top scorer ever for the French national team) but that is exactly what Giroud did. Instead of causing drama and angling for a move away to a club where he would get more gametime and earn a last big contract, Giroud stayed and helped the youngsters – including his direct competition in Tammy Abraham – in training, with his wealth of experience. Despite dragging Chelsea to a top 4 finish last season Giroud returned to the familiar surroundings of the bench at the start of this campaign as Timo Werner became additional competition for a starting berth up front. However, Giroud did what he does best, waiting patiently for his opportunity to shine, and when it came he took it: 4 goals in a single game against Sevilla, the winner in a crunch tie with Rennes and the aforementioned stunning bicycle kick in Bucharest.
The Frenchman will leave a cult hero thanks to the many crucial moments he has starred in as well as the memories he has provided. Who could forget the famous ‘thankyou Arsenal’ message on an Instagram livestream after he netted the opener against his former club in the Europa League final? There is nothing better than beating your rivals in a cup final with a goal from their former striker! Then there are the poetic finishes: the rifled shot against Spurs, the turn and finish against Villa and the dink against Sevilla. And that bicycle kick – who could forget that bicycle kick? If you ever get a free 10 minutes, do yourself a favour and watch a compilation of the Frenchman’s best moments: he really is a beautiful footballer (and man!) and he will be sorely missed.
To Olivier Giroud: thank you for everything and we wish you the best of luck in Italy, fans of Milan are in for a treat!
Written by Daniel New