Why Giroud can't just stop scoring goals
Football – Premier League – Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers – Stamford Bridge, London, Britain – July 26, 2020. Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring their second goal, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). [REUTERS/Mike Hewitt]

Olivier Giroud finished the year with the best strike rate of any player in the Premier League, just ahead of Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah.

Include his Champions League goals this season – he netted four away to Sevilla – and the record is even better.

“I am told it is a goal every 63 minutes this season,” Giroud tells Sky Sports. “Obviously, I am very happy with these numbers. I am the happiest man when I am on the pitch.”

At 34, Giroud’s form has not wavered. The goals keep coming as he continues to hone his craft. He is the master of the one-touch finish, the king of the near-post run that every defender in the Premier League should know is coming but still struggles to stop.

There have been two of those in his last two games for Chelsea – a volley at Wolves from Ben Chilwell’s left-wing cross and a header against Aston Villa after a ball in from the same player.

Does he worry that his trademark movement, darting in front of defenders, will be the talk of the opposition dressing room before the game? Surely Manchester City will know exactly what to expect if he makes it onto the pitch at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

“Everyone knows the quality of Kevin De Bruyne’s passing at Manchester City but still he is assisting again and again,” explains Giroud. “I believe it is one thing to be aware of the quality of the opposition player but to be able to stop it is another thing.”

Giroud is showing no signs of slowing down, although in his case that is hardly the point.

“My main strength has never been my pace,” he admits. As long as he can find enough space to get a body part to the ball ahead of his marker, he will keep scoring his goals.

“It is something you have or you don’t. A striker can sniff things.”

“I am not going to tell you everything because it will be easy to read me,” he said.

Why Giroud can't just stop scoring goals
Football – Champions League – Group E – Sevilla v Chelsea – Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville, Spain – December 2, 2020 Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring their second goal. [REUTERS/Marcelo Del Pozo]

But it is not all about instinct, it is a skill that he has learned. Being in the right place at the right time is an easy line, but it all comes down to hard work.

“As a striker, if you want to get free from the defender, you have to make a first run and then after that another run. You feint to go to the far post but end up going to the first post. It is all about that movement to get free from your defender to receive the ball.

“You always keep believing. That is one of the main qualities of a striker. You never stop and you always believe that you are going to score even if you miss the first one or the second one.”

Giroud’s movement is unusual because other strikers with his aerial ability would choose to pull away to the far post instead. He prefers the near-post run and here he explains why.

“Of course, there are certain situations in a game where you do have to go to the far post because there is congestion at the first post. It does depend on the situation.”

“But as a striker, as a No 9, you sometimes have to make the run just to move the defender to free the space up behind you for another player. When the cross comes to the first post and you are ahead of the defender you are there to finish and you can surprise the ‘keeper. That is why I like to do this movement. I work on it a lot in training.”

Why Giroud can't just stop scoring goals
Chelsea’s French attacker Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Chelsea at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on April 14, 2018. [AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK]

What are the instructions to the crosser? “I ask my full-backs and wingers to cross the ball early and not wait too much. You do not need to go to the goal-line before you cross.”

And is it easier to find the net when the cross comes in from the left wing or the right wing? “It is true that maybe I am more comfortable heading the ball when it comes from the left.”

Even so, 10 of his Chelsea goals have come from right-wing crosses compared to 12 from the left. As well as the headers, there are the angled volleys and the deft flicks. No fewer than 31 of his 37 goals for Chelsea have come from first-time finishes. It is tough to stop.

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