What can Olivier Giroud bring to AC Milan?
Background image: Nobbiwan, CC BY 2.0
When you hear the name Olivier Giroud, it’s often followed by the term ‘underrated’. A World Cup, Champions and Europa League winner who's scored goals wherever he's played deserves better. At 34, the Frenchman has moved on from Chelsea to test himself in Serie A with AC Milan. With 11 goals in all competitions for the Blues in 2020/21, including six in the Champions League, he’s certainly not finished. Given his wealth of experience, further glory might yet come. The question is what he brings to San Siro and how he will fare in a new country and league?
The new man arrives with the Rossoneri coming off their best season in some time, having finished one-two with Inter in the Lega Calcio table and restoring the Derby della Madonnina's status. Yet, in losing Hakan Calhanoglu and Gianluigi Donnarumma, the red half of Milan is reeling from a pair of body blows. Even more painful, Donnarumma exited on a free transfer, leaving its American owners with nothing to show for his time at the club. On the other hand, making Fikayo Tomori and Sandro Tonali's loans permanent is something of a healing salve. Both are young, gifted players likely to bring a high re-sale value in the foreseeable future, not to mention the promise of important contributions on the pitch.
With Mario Mandzukic also leaving after a failed short-term move, Giroud fits nicely into manager Stefano Pioli's attack. Given Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injuries and advanced age, the Frenchman provides a reiable and dependable option. He’s only missed 58 games, or six per season, through injury in the past decade. With the Swede sidelined for the early portion of '21/22, the Frenchman won't need to play out of position as Mandzukic did at Juventus when Cristiano Ronaldo arrived.
Pioli prefers one striker and, when fit, Zlatan will be first choice. That said, Giroud can expect to play more than his fair share of games given the long nature of the season and the likelihood that Ibra won't be asked to play twice per week.
Milan scored 40% of their goals from penalties and set pieces last season. While never functioning as his club's designated taker, Giroud has scored 20 out of 21 spot kicks over his career. He’s also a clear aerial threat from corners and solid in defending them.
Nor can you dismiss the rangy forward's world-class linkup play. His work was integral to France’s success in Russia and Eden Hazard referred to his former Chelsea teammate as ‘the world’s best target man’ during their time together. Ante Rebic, Rafael Leao and Brahim Diaz will soon learn to get the ball to him early and often.
For his part, he'll need to adjust to the slower pace in Serie A. However, with his qualities and that of the squad around him, he should make the adjustment rather swiftly. Milan will be happy to continue pumping in crosses whether Giroud or Ibrahimovic is on the pitch. Consistency will only make them more dangerous. Considering how frequently the Rossoneri look to feed Ibra, Giroud’s clever attacking movement and physicality should make his £2 million fee a certifiable bargain.
Despite his absences, Zlatan still contributed 15 goals in 19 appearances, last term. With the Frenchman on hand to spell him regularly, the Curva Sud can expect the flow of goals to continue.