Olivier Giroud marked his full Chelsea debut with a classy assist for Hazard’s opening goal during The Blues’ pivotal 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Monday. The Frenchman demonstrated his technical elegance with a moment of genius, but can he fulfil a role of acting as a decoy for the likes of Moses, Pedro, Willian and Hazard?
Giroud made just his second start in the Premier League this season, and his first for Chelsea, since joining from Arsenal for £19 million on January deadline day. He hardly boasts the prolific goal scoring record of former talisman Didier Drogba and Diego Costa, but he brings a physical and technical style, which Eden Hazard and other attackers can naturally feed off.
It wasn’t a famous debut to remember for Olivier Giroud, but it was a promising start to life at Stamford Bridge. He was replaced after 60 minutes, due to an injury sustained from a first-half challenge from Jonny Evans. However, Giroud didn’t fail to make an impact during his time on the pitch, and created the opening goal with an exquisite flick onto Eden Hazard, who predictably found the back of the net.
The Frenchman possesses the physical attributes, mentality to envisage promising attacking scenarios and technical ability to execute a variety of passes. This proved key in the moment leading up to Hazard’s opening goal and this could also play a key role in transforming Chelsea’s attacking fortunes, after an inconsistent run of form of late.
Alvaro Morata has a tendency of disappearing in the attack, rather than linking up with Eden Hazard, Pedro or Willian. Chelsea have been craving a striker who can both score goals and link up with the attack, which is exactly what Giroud is capable of offering from the evidence of Monday’s performance.
Michy Batshuayi played this role adequately during a string of appearances before his loan move to Borussia Dortmund was confirmed, but Olivier Giroud’s experience makes him the perfect candidate for this role. Eden Hazard has the ability to beat defenders at will, but with the Frenchman present to lure defenders into his path and clear the route to goal, the Belgian will more than likely continue to thrive on the contribution of Giroud.
How Should Chelsea Line-Up with Olivier Giroud?
Chelsea have the potential to become a lethal counter-attacking threat once again, which is a system they mastered during their Premier League title winning season last year. The likes of Eden Hazard and Pedro combined with Moses and Alonso to form a series of storming counter-attacks to exploit opposition defences each game, but they’ve looked a distant image in Conte’s second season at the club.
With Olivier Giroud as the sole striker, this will build the platform for the wing-backs to portray more attacking roles and for Eden Hazard to flourish in a free roaming role. Last season, Moses and Alonso were so far advanced down the channels, that Hazard and Pedro were able to make inward runs and play free roaming roles.
The Blues have had to defend more rigidly this season, which has restricted the attacking opportunities for wing-backs Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso. The departure of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United in the summer has also taken away a pivotal defensive barrier and Bakayoko has failed to act as an adequate replacement.
N’Golo Kante has the ability to play in the central defensive midfield role, due to his work ethic and off-the-ball intelligence to predict the decision-making and movement of the opposition. If Kante simply filled the gap in between defence and midfield, Chelsea would again have a defensive presence to add protection to their susceptible defence.
This will require Azpilicueta and Christensen to supply the defensive width and Rudiger to play a central role in the back-three. Organization and efficiency has seriously been lacking in the back line this season, but they will be less exploited with an extra barrier of protection.
Moses and Alonso will then have the licence to bomb forward down the channels and potentially form a six-man attack. Fabregas will be given more freedom to roam forward with Kante portraying a restricted defensive role, which will increase the chances of Chelsea creating opportunities in central areas.
The forward runs of Moses and Alonso will also allow Hazard and Willian to make inward runs and play free roaming roles. This is the exact type of role that Hazard craves, as it gives him the license to cause havoc, without continuously having to be aware of his positioning on the pitch.
With Hazard and Willian drifting into central attacking roles, this opens up the opportunity for the wing-backs to make overlapping runs, which we saw regularly last season.
Therefore, with Giroud in the attack, Chelsea can play with an unpredictable edge in the final third, due to the variety of options they possess. An alteration in personnel will be pivotal to ensure this system works correctly, as Bakayoko and Pedro are inadequate to fulfil the roles, but one thing is certain – with Giroud; Chelsea can reboot their system and challenge once again!