Has Tammy Abraham shut the Chelsea door on Olivier Giroud?
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We're only five games in. Writing in stone takes a little longer. Still, Chelsea's striking option appears sorted. Seven goals make Tammy Abraham Frank Lampard's first choice to lead the line. He started in the 1-0 defeat to Valencia in the Champions League too. Last season, Olivier Giroud featured on the continent for Maurizio Sarri, owning the Europa League with 11 goals. Is the writing on the wall for the 32-year-old?
Lampard is trusting the young players this season at Stamford Bridge. He did likewise last year with Derby County because the Rams had little money to spare. Chelsea has more than they need but used too much of it for UEFA's liking so it's deja vu all over again for the Blues' legend.
Super Frank rewarded Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori for their outstanding service while on loan to Pride Park last term. Tomori was Derby's Player of the Year with his calm, well-timed defending. Mount was off the charts as an attacking mid. He began this season like a house afire as well but Abraham tops the boss' list these days. The only two who aren't enjoying his motherlode of form are Giroud and Michy Batshuayi who can only wonder when they'll be given a start.
At 25, Batshuayi can be patient. Time is running out for Giroud, however. Does he want to spend what's left of his career on the bench? That's his lot if he remains at the Bridge. His move from Arsenal to Chelsea in 2018 was made understandably in an effort to not unsettle his family.
He continued to get a fair chance under both Antonio Conte and Sarri despite not lighting up the Premier League. Despite missing regular football under three Chelsea managers now, he's kept his place in France's World Cup-winning side in the bargain. At some point, Didier Deschamps won't be able to justify his selection any longer. Young players are coming through Les Bleus' ranks as well.
Staying at Chelsea will end his dream of surpassing Thierry Henry's record 51 goals for country. Giroud is 15 adrift. If Abraham continues at this rate into the holidays, how can the former Gunner pass up a January move? There is also the possibility that Lampard will turn to Batshuayi first if Tammy stumbles. The question then becomes where to go.
Staying in a top-five league is important for keeping his place in the national team.
The most likely option is to return to France. He's done all there is to do in the Premier League and has nothing to prove. Other than Paris Saint-Germain, he'd walk into most Ligue 1 starting XIs although a side with European prospects would be most ideal. Lyon has lost half its squad to the Prem and La Liga in recent campaigns. Marseille surged in the second half last term after signing Mario Balotelli. The mercurial Italian returned to Serie A and his hometown club, newly promoted Brescia. Who's to say Giroud can't provide OM with a similar boost? St Etienne could also use a proven finisher. No, getting a club in France will not be difficult.
The Bundesliga is another option, as is Serie A. His hold-up play and technical ability will be appreciated in both.
There is one catch with each of these possibilities, though. None are willing to pay Premier League wages. A wage discount can't be avoided if remaining with a top European club is his preference. On the other hand, the Chinese Super League is happy to pay for marquee talent, the Japanese league as well. That means an end to his international career, however.
It's a choice every player faces eventually. Recently, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres all wrestled with the question of whether to keep living the dream or be pragmatic by taking one last paycheque. Sooner or later, the money wins out. Now it's up to Olivier Giroud to recognise his time has come.