The France World Cup winner, Giroud, proved a point to his boss with a well-taken goal when given a rare opportunity to start in the league.
With Tammy Abraham at just 70 per cent fitness, and Michy Batshuayi having been poor in the loss to Manchester United, Chelsea’s third-choice striker Olivier Giroud sent a message to Frank Lampard against Premier League rivals Tottenham.
The Frenchman helped Chelsea to arrest a run of four league games without a win, a sequence that has seen Chelsea lose their cushion in the top four and instead enter a scramble for the Champions League places that extends downwards to mid-table.
The early signs were good on Saturday, after a positive week of training, with Giroud sharp in the opening exchages. He then went on to demonstrate that he can still be a difference maker, latching onto Jorginho’s clipped ball in-behind.
The 33-year-old’s firm first-time shot was saved by his compatriot Hugo Lloris but he was on hand to volley home after Ross Barkley’s follow-up to make it 1-0. VAR threatened momentarily to take his goal away, but unlike the two efforts on Monday which were ruled out against Manchester United, it stood.
Giroud had not started a Premier League game since November 30 but it really didn’t show. Frank Lampard saw fit to completely drop Michy Batshuayi from the squad after he was wasteful with chances against United.
The out-of-favour striker had a bright cameo in that game on Monday and Lampard produced another bold team selection by changing the formation to 3-4-3. He recalled Giroud along with Ross Barkley and Marcos Alonso after long spells out of the team.
It was Alonso who made it 2-0 with a trademark left-footed, first-time strike after great build-up play with the two other recalled forwards Mason Mount and Barkley. It was his third goal against Tottenham and Alonso, like Giroud came in from the cold for this fixture. The Spanish wing-back had not started a league game since his side’s away win at the home of the north Londoners in December.
Lampard has preferred his top scorer Abraham for most of the season, due to his impressive record of 15 goals, but his recent ankle knock has seen his powers reduced and his starts restricted in recent weeks.
Giroud, behind the England man in the pecking order, was disappointed to remain at Stamford Bridge in January after his move to Inter fell through with Chelsea unable to add attacking reinforcements of their own.
Without securing their transfer targets – Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani or Napoli’s Dries Mertens – Chelsea opted to keep hold of the ex-Arsenal man. He had acted professionally throughout the saga, by Lampard’s own admission, but it was testing time for the World Cup winner.
In a season with Euro 2020 on the horizon, and France ranking as the outright favourites to claim further glory, Giroud is in need of game time. France coach Didier Deschamps advised a move but he is now making the best of the situation by taking a rare chance to start.
His recall to the starting line-up was a popular move amongst the fans, who have had to watch Chelsea be wasteful in west London with a poor home record for most of the season.
A lack of finishing has been one of the big characteristics of this Chelsea side since they lost Eden Hazard. Giroud can not only add goals of his own, but help link play for midfielders and wingers to score – as evidenced on the second goal.
Chelsea have been in the top four for 14 consecutive matchdays but they could have dropped out on Saturday afternoon in painful fashion against Jose Mourinho on his return to the Bridge. Nerves were certainly jangling when Erik Lamela added a late goal to put the pressure on the hosts.