Chelsea’s had a lot of breakout stars this season with the massive youth revolution, but the unsung hero of the year is ironically a veteran.
While the likes of Mason Mount and Cesar Azpilicueta will be praised for playing major roles in a transitional season for Chelsea, which has brought the Blues a UCL spot and to an FA Cup final, Giroud produced when needed most.
Over the last few years, Olivier Giroud had created a reputation as one of world football’s best impact-substitutes. He came into the season as Frank Lampard’s most experienced striker and perhaps would have been expected to be given a starting role. However, Tammy Abraham’s fantastic start to the season meant that once again, Giroud found himself playing second fiddle.
After making back-to-back starts in August’s UEFA Super Cup defeat in Istanbul, where he scored and the subsequent league game versus Leicester, he was named in the starting XI just once for the next 34 games with a combined 145 minutes of action in that span. But as always, the Frenchman showed his professionalism despite his lack of games. In January, he was set to depart west London in a bid to get the game time needed to make France’s Euro 2020 squad, but was convinced by Lampard to stay. A move away would have been totally understandable for anyone in his shoes.
Abraham’s loss of form—coupled with his injuries—finally gave Giroud a chance to repay his manager’s trust. This opportunity was taken with both hands as the ex-Arsenal man provided many clutch moments en route to Chelsea’s eventual top four and FA Cup final run-in. He broke his league duck for the season in the 2-1 home win versus Tottenham.
Consequently, he was rewarded with thirteen starts in the next fifteen games where he scored nine goals, most notably the opener in the FA Cup semifinal triumph vs. Manchester United. Since the restart he has been Chelsea’s top scorer, scoring seven goals in eight starts—including winners versus Aston Villa and Norwich. In total this season, Giroud’s scored 10 goals at a rate of a goal every 132 minutes; the best of his any Chelsea player with a minimum of five goals.
For someone who started only a third of Chelsea’s league games in the recently concluded season, Giroud’s goals were worth ten points to Lampard’s team; points without which the Blues would have finished outside of the top four.
He will be expected to start Saturday’s final, where he has the chance to cap off a wonderful season in grand style. If this season does turn out to be his last season in blue, he can certainly look back with pride knowing that he played his part in making what was expected to be one of Chelsea’s most difficult seasons a successful one.