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Scouting Report: Olivier Giroud

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Giroud stays in London but switches allegiances. Will he see more starts and score more goals with Chelsea?

Chelsea Unveil New Signing Olivier Giroud
Giroud is a Blue!
Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Olivier Giroud wants to be on France’s flight to Russia. In order to earn one of 23 available tickets, he could no longer afford to warm Arsene Wenger’s bench.

Antonio Conte does not rate Michy Batshuayi (just loaned away to Dortmund), so he is buying a proven striker to challenge the disappointing Spain international Alvaro Morata. After being linked to the likes of Edin Dzeko and Andy Carroll, the Blues made the sensible choice to sign one of the better EPL pure strikers on the market.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the spectacularly coiffed Olivier Giroud, Chelsea striker!

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Recapping Giroud’s Arsenal Career

If you play fantasy EPL you know Giroud. The 31-year old needs no introduction. Before we proceed to the more interesting bit where I try to predict how he’ll do for Chelsea, let’s quickly recap his time with Arsenal.

2017-18: 16 total appearances with 15 coming off the bench and 4 goals scored

2016-17: 29(18); 12 G

2015-16: 38 (12); 16 G

2014-15: 27(6) 14 G

2013-14: 36(0); 16 G

2012-13: 34(10) 11 G

Since joining Arsenal, then, Giroud has consistently produced double-digit goals despite transitioning from almost-guaranteed starter to more of a “super-sub” role.

In his time with Arsenal we’ve learned that Giroud is a strong finisher who’s good in the air as well as on the ground. He also possesses the uncanny ability to maintain his perfect hairdo regardless of the weather or level of activity on the futbol pitch. He’s also not averse to mixing it up defensively and enjoys a reputation as a mean tackler.

Chelsea’s shiny new toy favors his left-foot, the vast majority of his goals being left footed or headed. Giroud is a very able and well-rounded goal scorer who can reliably score from open play, crosses, free kicks and corners. While most of his goals tend to come from around 6 yards out, EPL defenses have learned not to sleep on him from longer distances.

Discipline-wise, the passionate Giroud has earned a reputation as a bit of a yellow card magnet, though he’s had a lower-than-expected history of red cards.

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Giroud’s Chelsea Prospects (Real Life and Fantasy)

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is clear in his preference for a traditional, robust center forward who is versatile in both goal-scoring and in hold up play to create time and space for creative wizards Eden Hazard and the serially-underrated Willian. In short, it seems as if Conte is desperate for Diego Costa’s talent minus the well-known character issues thereof. Giroud seems a good fit.

What Giroud lacks in speed (a lot) he makes up for in guile. With him on the pitch, Chelsea will be able to mix the speed of their attack, frustrating offenses with a constant switcheroo of ultra-fast pace and a slow ground game. Giroud will be a natural target of those patented Hazard short passes, as well as most indirect free kicks and corner kicks.

By now you’re thinking: “This all sounds great, but will he start?” The best answer I can offer is one you won’t like, dear reader: time will tell.

But, like you, I’m impatient so let’s play a game of clues to see if we can unearth a more useful and immediate answer.

First, let’s follow the money: Chelsea agreed to pay Real Madrid an initial transfer fee of £58 million, while Giroud’s transfer fee is a reported £18 million. It is fair to say that Chelsea’s commitment to Morata is greater than its commitment to Giroud. Advantage: Morata

Next, let’s look at this season’s production: Morata has 18 starts, 20 total appearances and 10 goals. That translates to 1 goal per 2 appearances, or 50%. Giroud has had far more sporadic playing time this year for a ratio of 25% (4 goals in 16 appearances). Advantage: Morata

Now we look at goals-per-minute: Morata has 10 goals in 1522 minutes (0.59 goals per 90’) while Giroud has 4 goals in 375 minutes (0.96 goals per 90’). Advantage: Giroud (but beware the evils of small sample size!)

Finally we look at a very important factor, that is rest of season motivation in the lead up to the World Cup. Morata plays for Spain’s national team and faces competition from the likes of Diego Costa and an underwhelming bunch including Iago Aspas, Aritz Aduriz and MLS-er David Villa. In short, if he’s healthy, Morata is most likely among Spain’s 23 in Russia.

Giroud, on the other hand, faces fierce competition for a spot in France’s 23: a who’s who murderers row including Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, and Manchester United’s Anthony Martial. Unlike Morata, Giroud has been in-and-out of the French team over the past 12 months. If Giroud wants to get the nod for Russia, he knows he will need to play and be productive. Advantage: Giroud

By my count the score is 2 for Morata and 2 for Giroud. It’s tie breaker time!

Who is more likely to not fall apart if they’re benched? Morata was Real Madrid’s super sub last term and has a strong history of excelling in that role for most of his career (see: Juventus). Giroud has done very well in that role as well for Arsenal, but the feeling is that he agreed to join Chelsea because he’s hungry for game time. Coupled with his motivation and superior goals-per-90 I think it’s advantage Giroud.

So there we have it, I believe that for the rest of this term Giroud is slightly more likely than Morata to start games. While Morata has shown a strong partnership with Cesar Azpilicueta, he hasn’t clicked with Hazard (Chelsea’s most important player by far). If Giroud and Hazard can establish rapport, then Morata will have to make due with super sub appearances next to compatriot Pedro. The good news for both is that if this arrangement holds, both Chelsea strikers are likely to be a part of their respective teams’ World Cup efforts. It’s a win-win!

In terms of fantasy it’s less of a win-win, however. In Official it will be very hard to rely on Morata and Giroud to get consistent and predictable starts. I would stay away. In Togga draft head-to-head, both players will be assets as the platform allows substitutions just minutes before Chelsea’s game kicks off. As long as teams have a viable forward who can be plugged in as a replacement for an unexpected benching, all will be well. In Togga Perfect XI, both players are solid forward options in favorable matchups, but will likely fall behind the likes of Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah on most game weeks.

But that’s my opinion and I’m most interested in yours:

Poll

Who do you think will be the better fantasy Chelsea striker for the rest of this term?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Alvaro Morata
    (11 votes)
  • 74%
    Olivier Giroud
    (32 votes)
43 votes total Vote Now

And there we have one man’s look at Chelsea’s new CF conundrum. How do you see things playing out? Share your views and predictions in the comments section below!