Has Premier League Reshuffle Boosted Les Bleus’ World Cup Hopes?
As the window slams shut on crazy season, the main moves within the English Premier League featured players either directly or indirectly linked with France’s World Cup squad. Now that agent’s phones have been turned off, two players likely to be involved in Didier Deschamps’ squad have very different battles ahead of them.
Olivier Giroud was always highly likely to be in Deschamps squad, regardless of his recent move to Chelsea. Some observers believe at 31 he might be past his best, especially with Lacazette, Mbappe, Gameiro and Gignac all vying for a spot. Deschamps likes his target man though and whilst he is writing the team sheet out, Giroud’s name will almost always be on there.
If Chelsea’s new forward had remained where he was, his first-team chances would have been limited. He could well have found himself on the plane to Russia desperately short of competitive games; maybe a little rusty. Instead, he’s linked up with another high-flying Premier League team, one where game time is likely to be increased.
On the other hand, Alexandre Lacazette may just find his chances limited. Arsene Wenger has been replacing him more than any other Premier League player, usually bringing on Giroud. Now Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has arrived, the pressure has been cranked up a little further.
Aubameyang was Wenger’s first choice in the summer, but Lacazette arrived after attempts to sign the Gabon forward failed. Now Wenger has his original target, Lacazette could find himself on the fringes of the starting eleven, not something that will help his fight for a World Cup spot. It may be him looking to impress in twenty minutes at the end of a game.
Lacazette hasn’t impressed sufficiently in English football to even guarantee a squad place; just nine goals from 28 outings isn’t the sort of return one expects from £46m worth of striker. Giroud, sold to Chelsea for a bargain £16m, has scored just two less from far fewer starts.
Indeed, there may be £30m separating the two players, but Oddschecker shows that the two strikers are neck and neck in the market to be France’s leading scorer in Russia. With Giroud likely to get more game time between now and then, he will surely become fitter, fresher and offer that robust, thoroughly un-French approach to attacking that Deschamps craves. As for Lacazette, he could find himself lacking crucial minutes on the pitch at just the wrong time.
Olivier Giroud might not be the name on everyone’s lips going into the festival of football this June, but thanks to a shrewd January move, he’s increased his chances of being talked about once it has concluded.