Time and time again, Olivier Giroud continues to prove he may just be the most underrated player in world football. The World Cup winner, who remains integral for France despite his lack of minutes at club level, has been forced to settle for another bit-part role under Frank Lampard this season and that may now be about to change. Tonight in Seville, his importance to this Chelsea side was unquestionable as he hit four for the Blues and say it quietly, but he could prove to be the difference come now and the end of the season.
In the wake of the 0-0 draw against Tottenham on Sunday, many felt the 34-year-old was worthy of more minutes at the end of a closely-contested London derby as the timing of Frank Lampard’s substitutes were scrutinised.
Giroud came close to winning it at the death, pouncing on Joe Rodon’s tame header back to Hugo Lloris, who gratefully gathered his compatriot’s undercooked attempt at goal.
Before that, the unconvincing Tammy Abraham failed to make the most of some delightful crosses from Reece James, as Giroud watched on from the sidelines.
But tonight at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Giroud laid down his marker with a ruthless display of finishing and sent a clear message to Lampard: Play me or lose me.
Olivier Giroud scored four times for Chelsea in the Champions League
The striker is under strict instruction from France boss Didier Deschamps, that he must find a new club in January if he continues to be cast aside by the Blues, or he won’t be selected for next summer’s European Championships.
Giroud has come close to leaving Chelsea on several occasions but now he is ready to take matters into his own hands at the turn of the year.
He struck a last-gasp winner in last week’s win at Rennes and backed that up with his best-ever performance in a Chelsea shirt. This was simply a masterclass.
His movement was excellent to open the scoring, as he peeled away from his marker before finishing emphatically past the helpless Alfonso Pastor Vacas.
A second followed after the interval, as he dinked the onrushing goalkeeper to tighten Chelsea’s grip on top spot in Group E.
Lampard could barely contain himself on the touchlines, applauding Giroud’s third with a beaming smile, as he headed in to complete a perfect hat-trick.
He then confidentially dispatched a fourth from the penalty spot late in the day, to cap one of the greatest nights of his career.
There was plenty to take from the game for Lampard but one thing is crystal clear. He simply cannot afford to lose Giroud in January.
Olivier Giroud laid down his marker by scoring four times for Chelsea
Lampard has a professional relationship with Giroud and understands his grievances ahead of what is likely to be his last international tournament.
But Giroud brings something different to the table. He’s vastly experienced, a proven winner, a model professional and selfless individual, who thrives off bringing the best out of his team-mates.
Just as Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.
The likes of Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner can all explode in the presence of Giroud.
It was the perfect night for Giroud and Chelsea
It’s been quickly forgotten that he was crucial at the end of last season too, helping Chelsea over the line as they secured a top-four finish and reached the FA Cup final, where they eventually fell short against Arsenal.
It would prove a major gamble if Lampard was to sign-off Giroud’s departure and his quality could give them the edge when the biggest prizes are handed out a the end of the season.
As he proved tonight, Giroud is worth his weight in gold to Chelsea, something that may not always be apparent.
However, the penny may finally have dropped and Giroud has forced his way back into favour. Now he must nail down his place in the side to avoid an ugly situation in January.
This was the perfect night for Chelsea and yet another performance that highlights their credentials, their strength in depth will allow them to challenge on all fronts this season.