AC Milan’s 4-0 dismantling of Lazio in Wednesday night’s Coppa Italia quarter-final not only set up another mouth-watering two-legged Derby della Madonnina against Inter in the semi-finals but also potentially signalled Olivier Giroud’s intent to become the Rossoneri’s main man up top after another match-winning performance.
Stefano Pioli was left with little choice but to start the Frenchman in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic – as was the case for last Saturday’s 2-1 Serie A derby win against the Nerazzurri – and fail to disappoint he did not. A six-minute brace at the end of the first half dealt the knockout blow to Maurizio Sarri’s men, thus equating to an impressive couple of braces in a combined total of under 10 minutes in Giroud’s last two outings.
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At the grand, old age of 35 one would be forgiven for thinking that Giroud was the elder statesman of any squad, should they not know who Milan’s other striking alternative is, and with a combined age of 75, both he and Ibrahimovic are posing Pioli with a selection dilemma.
Although Giroud turned the derby on its head and then sent Lazio packing, it seems as though the Milan coach doesn’t know who his preferred centre-forward is.
Should Pioli start Giroud or Ibrahimovic to lead AC Milan’s attack?
With room for only one out-and-out striker in Milan’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Giroud has grasped the opportunity with both hands and is taking advantage of Ibrahimovic’s injury-enforced absence. The ex-Chelsea striker has been in and out of the team so far this season, starting five of the last 10 and six of the most recent 15 games in all competitions for the Rossoneri.
Six goals in five starts – from the last 10 Milan matches – has been Giroud’s form of repayment, compared to three in the same timeframe for his Swedish counterpart, who has been laid up for the last couple, in his defence.
As things stand, there isn’t much between the two in terms of the numbers they’ve put up this season. Giroud has seven goals from eight Serie A starts, whereas Ibrahimovic has managed eight in 11 starts in Serie A, so when both are fit and raring to go it’ll be down to Pioli to choose between 75 years of experience and break the bad news to one of them.
Is Giroud underrated?
Seeing Giroud start two games and bag two braces could lead you to question why he isn’t the first pick on the team sheet every week, but the French forward has always had a highly impressive goals-per-game ratio, especially when picked from the off.
His minutes-per-game average is 58 in Serie this season, with one strike shy of a goal per game and this seems to have been the case for some time, if not throughout most of his career.
Looking at league games only, Giroud managed four from eight Premier League starts in 2020/21 for Chelsea, before moving to Milan. He started 12 games the season before that, scoring eight times. If you go back to his first season with the Blues – 2017/18 – he scored seven in seven starts with a season’s average of just 34 minutes per game.
Digging deeper still, Giroud netted 12 in 11 starts for Arsenal in 2016/17 with an average of 42 minutes a game. The season before that he had registered 16 in 26 games with an average of 64 minutes per game, and on goes the pattern.
Yet, he has never been seen as the main man wherever he’s been, despite such impressive averages. So, is the last week or so the start of Giroud spearheading Milan’s attack for the remainder of the season, or will it be a case of the same old, same old for the underused Frenchman?
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