Olivier Giroud discusses how the players are adapting to the new form of training at Cobham and explains why he signed a new contract at the club...
When football ground to a halt in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Olivier Giroud had more reason than most to bemoan the unfortunate timing of the pause to play. The 33-year-old was enjoying his longest run in the team under Frank Lampard, having started five consecutive matches in all competitions, scoring twice against Tottenham and Everton.
In fact, Giroud had clocked over 60 per cent of his total minutes this season and two of his three club goals in those five games, stepping up in the absence of Tammy Abraham through injury and retaining his place at the apex of our attack once the England international returned.
However, the Frenchman is not one to bemoan his luck. He has been hailed by Lampard as a model professional, setting the example both on and off the pitch.
Now back at Cobham and working within phase two of the Premier League’s training guidelines, Giroud continues to lead by example and explains how grateful he is to be back at work with his fellow players.
‘We’re working hard and it really feels good to be back on the pitch, to get to see team-mates again and to simply be playing football, kicking the ball and scoring goals again,’ he says.
‘I’d really missed it a lot. That being said, it’s very unique but it’s fine and spirits are high.’
The players are back training but sessions are far from what they are used to, although restricted contact training has been approved in recent days which means that larger group work should be possible.
‘There are quite a lot of differences,’ Giroud reveals. ‘We’ve been working in groups of five and then we need to maintain a two-metre minimum social distance between each other, meaning no contact.
‘Something else that’s changed compared to usual pre-seasons is that we only get 15 minutes of treatment after training. Normally in pre-season, you’re very demanding with your muscles and use them a lot, especially when you haven’t been training for over two months.
‘Muscles strain and creak but we respect the rules from the Government and the Premier League. I’ll admit that if I could have more care and treatment to look after my body, it would be better.
‘For all the running alone, nothing replaces being on the pitch - direction changes, accelerations, stop-and-go moves. Almost all my team-mates got blisters after resuming training but it’s pure joy to be back on the pitch.’
Giroud recently agreed a new Chelsea contract that will extend his two-and-a-half year stay in SW6 for another season. After coming close to moving away from the club in the January transfer window, he provides an insight into how things have changed and why he decided to stay.
‘I was supposed to leave in the January transfer window because I wasn’t playing much and I needed more game time to make the France squad for Euro 2020,’ he explains. ‘I very nearly left the club but I really think that God wanted me to stay at Chelsea.
‘The manager told me that he couldn’t let me leave because he didn’t have anyone to replace me. Everyone knows what happened so I won’t go back over it but the coach spoke to me privately and told me that he’d give more games.
‘He kept his word and what then mattered to me was proving to him that he could count on me when I was called upon.’
There is no denying that the World Cup-winner has delivered some big moments in blue, not least opening the scoring against his former club Arsenal in last season’s Europa League final and netting in the FA Cup semi-final a year earlier.
He was determined to reproduce those efforts this term when the opportunity arose and there is nothing quite like breaking the deadlock against Spurs to endear yourself to the Chelsea fans, dressing room and management alike.
‘I came off the bench and scored in my first game against Manchester United,’ he recalls. ‘The goal was ruled out because half of my foot was offside. In the next game, we were up against Tottenham, one of our main challengers for a Champions League place. I played and I scored. I kept my place in the side and then I found the net again against Everton.
‘I simply seized my opportunity and I repaid the faith that the manager had shown in me. That’s why the club ultimately offered me the chance to continue my time at Chelsea and I accepted immediately because I like it here. I want to keep winning trophies and I want to continue to show the manager that he can count on me.
‘Plus, with the whole coronavirus lockdown situation, I didn’t really feel comfortable with the idea of moving abroad and uprooting my family. I think a lot about our quality of life and we have a great setup here. I think a lot about my family now.’
That is true for most in response to the global health crisis, though the striker is reassured by the frequent testing of club players and staff. He knows football will not be back to normal for a while.
‘We’re tested twice a week - it’s very strange but we have to respect the rules,’ he states. ‘This period has been difficult because of football’s absence.
‘Competitions have stopped. I’ve really missed them and the adrenaline, the fans. I worry about playing football without the fans. I think it will lose its charm but that’s how it is for now.’
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