In the first of a new series asking the Chelsea players 10 questions about anything and everything, Olivier Giroud goes into detail on crossing, heading and volleying, three skills the forward knows all about.
Giroud, who made his 100th appearances for the Blues in the draw with Krasnodar, is widely regarded as one of the best headers of a ball in world football, and in the current Chelsea side there is no shortage of quality deliveries coming in from out wide for him to try to benefit from.
That Giroud is equally adept at volleying – evidenced by his Puskas Award for a remarkable scorpion kick earlier in his career – makes him the perfect man to talk about getting on the end of crosses and connecting with the ball first time and off the ground. Here is what he had to say…
With Reece James, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and others, the team is able to send in a variety of different crosses these days. Could you give a striker’s view on how you have to play for each one?
Hakim is more likely to come inside and cross with an inswinger. They are very dangerous for defenders, and for strikers you have to be good with your timing so you’re not offside. You need to start from a deeper position nearer the far post to attack the ball from there and be in between the defenders.
With Reece, and Ben sometimes but more Reece, he loves to cross with his first intention. He doesn’t need to go to the byline to cross the ball. The only thing is to be ready. We have built a good understanding and we work on it in training.
What is the key to winning a header?
The most important thing as a striker is to get in front of the defender and attack the ball between the first post and the penalty spot. That’s your job. It’s not going to be the winger on the other side or the number eight on the other side who will do it. Most of the time the other number eight on the side of the crosser is involved in the build-up.
You also have to move first even if it’s just to free space behind you. I remember Christian Pulisic’s goal at Aston Villa. Azpi crossed the ball, I attacked the first post, Ross was just behind me and we brought the defenders with us. Then Christian was free.
Do you prefer crosses from the left or the right?
It would be nice to see the statistics! But it depends. The most important thing is the timing and how you attack the ball. You have to be on the run with pace. If you are static it’s harder to head the ball with only your neck force.
How quickly after a cross is kicked do you think ‘I’m in with a chance here’?
Immediately. You don’t have much time to think about how to win your duel. Sometimes you have to feign the defender so you lose him. Sometimes it’s good to go to the second post and then move quickly to the first. In French we call it ‘appel, contre-appel’. You play with the defender and it’s not easy for him to read your run.
And what about when you come to head the ball?
Most of the time you need to think about heading it down. The goal is from the ground to two metres something, so you have more chance to score when you put it down.
I remember a goal I scored against Liverpool at the Bridge. Victor Moses crossed it with his left foot, it was an inswinger. I just had to deflect it, or glance it, above the keeper. You have to adapt according to the situation. Sometimes it’s better to go high or go low.
What is the most difficult type of header to score?
When you are static and the ball doesn’t have much power, so you have to generate your own power. The one in Rennes was a bit like that.
What is the best header you have scored technically?
There are a few! I liked that one against Liverpool because it was not easy. I liked the one in the Europa League final. I like diving headers because it means you come with pace and you have the force of your body. Petr can tell you I maybe couldn’t have had a better connection. I went 100 per cent for it and didn’t even think my friend Laurent Koscielny could put his foot and hit me. This was definitely one of the best.
Do you think the art of heading has been slightly lost in the modern game?
Yeah, because you will find less strikers like my type, a bit old-fashioned who like to head the ball. Like Alan Shearer before. Now it’s more about dribbling with pace, but crossing is still very important so you have to be ready to hit the ball with the head. Sometimes you don’t have another option.
It’s still very important, especially in the Premier League. Calvert-Lewin for example is doing great in the air, so there are a few, but not many.
What about your technique for volleying from crosses? You’ve scored some pretty good ones over the years…
Volleying is my favourite way of finishing. I watched a lot of videos of Jean-Pierre Papin and overhead kicks when I was younger. I have always loved acrobatic goals.
You can always get opportunities to volley, especially after an aerial duel when the ball comes out and you are in a good position. I remember the goal I scored for France against Sweden. I have scored two or three goals like that. I like to try and repeat it. And I enjoy working on the quality of the shot and how you connect with the ball.
Actually, I made a video for Chelsea about volleying!
There has been a lot of talk in England recently about the effects of heading later in life. How much did you head when were you a child and is it something you think about?
As a kid I didn’t head the ball much. I was a bit taller than the others so I used it like a strength, but it wasn’t something I worked on much. I have a few scars now, I have had about 20 stitches in my head, but I have always been lucky, touch wood, to never have an injury like poor Raul Jimenez. It can happen to anybody.
I remember I needed nine stitches one week before the World Cup after clashing heads with Matt Miazga in a friendly against the US. It’s scary because it was big, but if you think about that you don’t go up for duels any more. You have to forget what can happen and try to protect yourself also.