There are no dull moments in the life of a Chelsea fan. You’re either euphoric after great performances and cup wins or free-falling to the relegation zone – there is no in-between. Currently, we’re weathering way off course to our Premier League challenge with just 4 wins in the last 14 games! Injuries, COVID cases and bad forms have lent us another season without the Premier League trophy.
Chelsea hasn’t looked the same after Reece James and Ben Chilwell’s injury. The attack particularly has lacked any sort of edge to it which is why they have struggled to score even against the weaker teams. Much of the blame can be attributed to Romelu Lukaku who re-signed for Chelsea for £97.5 million!
To say that Lukaku has been poor for Chelsea would be an understatement. His performance so far hasn’t justified the humongous price tag and his off-field antics have even created unnecessary ruckus at the club.
This got me thinking about Giroud and his contribution to Chelsea. Thought to be slow and ageing, Giroud never set the world alight with his performance. He was however instrumental in most of Chelsea’s goals when he played. Despite not being spectacular on his own, Giroud could be considered the epitome of a team player.
Now that we’ve seen Lukaku play, I cannot but compare him to Olivier Giroud and sadly for Chelsea fans, the latter comes ahead on most fronts. Let me explain it one attribute at a time.
Hold-up play and first touch
Lukaku and his supporters were all in praise of his hold-up play in the Seria A. It was widely accepted that Lukaku’s hold-up play has been massively improved by Conte at Inter Milan. Pundits sang in unison about how strong and powerful Lukaku had become at the Nerazzurri. Naturally, his arrival at Chelsea was thought to be the final cog in Chelsea’s eventual Premier League challenge.
Sadly it did not turn out to be that way because Lukaku’s hold-up play is not that good. Don’t get me wrong, oftentimes he is able to overpower the opposition defenders but strength isn’t everything to football. If it was the case, we’d be getting bodybuilders to play this sport and not diminutive figures like Messi and Kante.
Lukaku is oftentimes let down by his first touch, which means he does not control the ball properly and hence is not able to create a goalscoring pass for the wingers. This is where Giroud shined. He was not fast but his first touch could shame even the best of playmakers.
Giroud’s goal contribution at Chelsea speaks for itself. In 52.4 90s he had a goals/assist of 45, whereas Lukaku has 8 goals/assists in 17.9 90s. That is 0.86G/A for Giroud against 0.45 G/A for Lukaku in 90 minutes.
|G/A per 90||0.86||0.45|
Aerial duals and headers
Another area where Lukaku was assumed to be quite good was in the air. Just because he is 6’2″ people assumed he’d be good in the air. This is not at all true. If you watch Chelsea’s game, his inability to win balls in the air is somehow the most annoying aspect of his game.
It is either due to weight or something else, but he cannot jump as high as he should. Giroud on the other hand is 6’3″ and very good in the air. In the 90 goals that he scored in the Premier League, 32 of them have been headers. None of the other players has scored more in that time!
Compare that to Lukaku who has only 25 headed goals in his 118. His headed passes are also weaker and vague. The most shocking stat however is the number of dispossessions. For all his strength and power, Lukaku has been dispossessed 20 times in 16 games whereas in 18 games Giroud was only dispossessed 8 times in the 19/20 season.
Despite getting fewer games, Giroud never moaned about it and got on with the games when he got the chance. Lukaku on the other hand is a proper Prima donna and believes the world should revolve around him despite not playing anything close to what Chelsea paid for him. He has totally destroyed the harmony of the group with reports coming about other attackers being dissatisfied with Tuchel. With just one season at Chelsea, it looks like Lukaku would leave looking for easier pastures somewhere else which would honestly be good for both parties involved.
These and many others are the reason why I consider Olivier Giroud to be a better striker than Romelu Lukaku at Chelsea. Hell, even Tammy Abram did better at Chelsea than Lukaku but alas we did not know then.
To paraphrase Oedipus, Hamlet, Lear, and all those guys, “I wish I had known this some time ago.”