Europa League hat-trick hero Giroud hoping for EPL chance

LONDON • Olivier Giroud has not given up hope of regaining a place in Chelsea's Premier League team, with his prolific form in European competition as he seeks to extend his stay for a further year.

The Frenchman's hat-trick in last Thursday's 5-0 thrashing of Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine established him as the leading scorer in this season's Europa League, with nine goals in as many games.

Yet the striker, an £18 million (S$31.9 million) signing from Arsenal in January last year, has played only 56 minutes of top-flight football this year.

Giroud signed an 18-month contract but there is an option for Chelsea to extend his stay by a year.

Asked whether he would accept life as a substitute at the Blues, he said: "No chance. I'm a competitor and I want to play every single game and to be happy on the pitch.

"I am not picking the team, the manager makes the choices. I play in the Europa League and I am happy to help the team. The Premier League is another thing. I'm 32 but I'm still young. I feel very well physically."

Giroud, who has made only 12 Premier League starts and scored four league goals since arriving at Stamford Bridge, must now displace Gonzalo Higuain, who joined in January on a loan deal.

The 31-year-old Argentinian missed the trip to Ukraine owing to illness but should be in contention for the Premier League match at Everton's Goodison Park today.

Two goals on his third start for the club in the 5-0 win over Huddersfield suggested Higuain would not take long to find his feet.

His form since then, however, has been underwhelming. A return of just one more goal, in the win at Fulham, would be much more acceptable if the forward's all-round play was helping to bring out the best in other players around him.

There has been limited evidence of that, and there is certainly a case to be made that Giroud provides a focal point up front.

The problem for Maurizio Sarri is that the fight for a top-four finish - Chelsea have 57 points, three behind fourth-placed Arsenal - means he has little margin for error and it remains to be seen if Giroud is rewarded with a start today.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 17, 2019, with the headline 'Europa League hat-trick hero Giroud hoping for EPL chance'. Print Edition | Subscribe