Olivier Giroud continues to just do the work

Olivier Giroud continues to just do the work

Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud
Photo: Getty Images

It is hard to look at Olivier Giroud and think “grafter.” Because it’s not hard to look at Giroud at all. Ask Leslie Jones. It would be silly to suggest that people don’t make conclusions based on how a player looks. It’s hard to reconcile him as a pure, old-school center forward. Strong, holds up the play, brings his teammates together, and does all the things we don’t measure (or didn’t, back when soccer stats didn’t go beyond “goals” and “assists”). Giroud scores too, but is hardly as prolific as other center forwards. His value is in what he does for the rest of the team. Which you definitely don’t get from that hair.

And the latter half of Giroud’s career has basically been about teams and managers finding ways to not use him. Ever since Arsene Wenger’s last season at Arsenal, Giroud has been a second or third choice wherever he’s been. And that was coming off five-straight seasons of 10 or more goals as Arsenal’s main striker. But everyone thought they could do better. Maybe someone with more pace like Alexis Sanchez or Alex Lacazette at Arsenal.

That led to a move to Chelsea, where he was a backup to the likes of Alvaro Morata or Gonzalo Higuain or a strikerless formation. Spot starts, sub appearances to close out games, even though the likes of Eden Hazard (before his favorite move became picking up a fork) talked about how much they loved playing with Giroud. Because of all the unselfish work he put in, and allowed them to get into the spots they wanted to get to.

Meanwhile, in the midst of his club career being relegated to role player, he was leading the line for France as they stormed to a World Cup win in Russia in 2018. Giroud didn’t score in that tournament, but his work built the platform for Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann. They were quick to credit him. France thought they’d moved on from Giroud these past Euros, as Karim Benzema came back in from his blackmail-exile. They were toast in the Round of 16.

Frank Lampard didn’t have much use for him at Chelsea, and when he was replaced by Thomas Tuchel there wasn’t any salvation for Giroud either, given how Tuchel likes his teams to attack at pace. That was the idea with the purchase of Romelu Lukaku, but with his struggles to hold up the ball, to combine with teammates, to not fit into Chelsea’s system yet, one wonders if Tuchel isn’t wondering what it might be like to turn to Giroud on occasion.

Giroud went to Milan, where he hasn’t been a regular starter either as they keep trying to trot out a now 40-year old Zlatan Ibrahimović who finally looks to be declining, or the more explosive work of Rafael Leão. And yet Giroud is ready to be called upon as a sub or spot starter, and the call came again yesterday in the Derby della Madonnina against Inter, the biggest game in Italy this season. Zlatan’s achilles was barking, and Milan needed a pivot point.

All Giroud did was restart the title race in Serie A with two goals, bringing Milan from a 1-0 halftime deficit to a 2-1 win.

The first goal is pretty classic Giroud, as he wins the ball back at the halfway line and yet works himself back up top to finish off the move that ensued (try to ignore the bewildering camerawork after he scores):

Three minutes later, Giroud turned the game on its head with a moment of class we’ve forgotten he can produce, as this turn left Stefan de Vrij, one of the league’s best defenders, firmly on his ass.

The win for Milan saddled them up one point behind their city rivals at the top of Serie A, though Inter have a game in hand. If they are to chase the Nerazzurri down for the rest of the season, and surpass them, there will be Zlatan magic involved. Leão will tear teams apart with his pace and skill. But they’ll have that platform thanks to Giroud, who just does all the things no one else wants to do, knitting together everything at the sharp point.

You’re not supposed to have to work that hard when you look that good. Giroud seemingly has never minded, and perhaps a manager might notice one day. 

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.