Despite not starting against Australia on Saturday, Olivier Giroud did come on during the second half of the first group game. With 31 goals in 76 games to his name, the French international is the most prolific current goalscorer. But since the beginning of his career, the Chelsea striker has had to battle for his legitimacy and make his case for the team. He spoke exclusively to L’Équipe in depth about his playing style.
His style of play
I’m the type of player who likes to keep the ball, a bit of an old school player. A tall player with the ability to help the team by serving as a focal point to do one-twos. Whether it’s to lay it off for a teammate or to keep possession high up the pitch. In England, this is referred to as the hold-up player. I also like to help my teammates score. By nature, I’m not a selfish player. Even if on the pitch, you have to be because you’re a striker.
When you have the chance to shoot and score, you take it, especially because finishing is one of my main qualities. But if there’s a defender in front of me and my teammate is better positioned, I’ll look to the play the pass and get an assist in order to help my teammates. Often times, people say that a pivot needs to stay in the opponent’s box, but I like to be involved in play when I can. Of course, it’s not necessarily my job to drop deep for the ball like Antoine Griezmann does.
I think I display a fair amount of precision in laying the ball off and creating space to shoot. Sometimes, I score thanks to my instinct of being on the final or second-to-last pass. However, don’t mix up a good first touch with finesse and having great technique. That implies being able to dribble and having the necessary speed to execute the skill.
I won’t get the crowd off their seats by dribbling past three or four players. But I’ve still managed to dribble players in the box, as shown by my goal against Southampton in the Cup. Some were surprised and said, “Wow you can do that?” I responded saying that I had no idea I could do that. I did it instinctively ( smiling). Teamplay requires a lot of intelligence and touches on the ball. That’s one of my primary qualities.
At Tours (2008-2010), my coach was Daniel Sanchez, a former striker. He would ask me to trick the opponent to be the first one to get on the end of a cross, mostly at the front post. But one can’t always be at the front post. Especially because it could limit the angle from which you can score. Most would tell me to feint the defender to get that half-second advantage to strike at the front post. Because if you don’t do it, no one will do it for you.
If you want the ball, you have to move the defence around, call for the ball and create space. The far post is for the winger or the playmaker. But I’ve also improved in calling for the ball or changing the direction of my runs when the ball is played back.
His aerial prowess
Hugo Lloris knows that I’m a good option for laying it off. The issue is that so do the opponents, which is why they put a player in front of me and behind me. So we have to be ready to win the second balls. It’s harder to to have a player behind you and hold the ball up when there’s another player preventing you from jumping.
But I’ve improved when battling for the ball and in my ability to impose myself. I know how to use my physique more intelligently, which was not necessarily the case before arriving to England. But I still prefer when my defenders are able to play the ball so that I can chest it and play from there, rather than to my head with no idea on who will win it afterwards.
Playing as a pivot
The further you are from the goal, the longer you need to hold the ball up for your team to move up the pitch. In the final third, the less space you have, the more you have to play one touches in order to speed up play. But, you have to avoid too many touches in order to speed things up. When you’re not in that area, you can have a few more touches in order to help your team relax.
His chemistry with his teammates
I prefer to link up with a number 10 or a second striker. With that being said, I’ve been clinical and performed well in a three man front-line with box-to-box midfielders who make runs forward. In a 4-3-3, on the wings, we have guys who devour that length of the pitch. They cut inside. So there’s the possibility to link up with them too. At Chelsea, we play with two number 10s in a 3-4-3. The wings are really for the full-backs to push up a lot. Willian, Pedro and Hazard play more so in the middle. A player like Mbappé could play in a system similar to that one. He knows how to attack the backline, cut to inside, cross, play in tight spaces and link up with others.