5 veteran forwards who can replace Olivier Giroud at Chelsea
- With Olivier Giroud's contractual situation unclear, here are five forwards who can replace him at Chelsea.
Had Chelsea conducted their January transfer business a bit differently, Olivier Giroud would've been playing for another team. The Frenchman, rightly annoyed by the lack of opportunities in the first half of the season, looked certain to leave Stamford Bridge in the winter window, however, a move never took shape.
Frank Lampard will be thankful that he remained at the club. The France international had been in fine form for the Blues lately and would've been expected to lead the line in their upcoming matches had a global pandemic not resulted in the season's suspension. His scoring form, as well as his aerial dominance in the opposing half, had given Lampard's side much reprieve recently after a terrible few months saw them loosen their grip on a UEFA Champions League spot.
Despite his recent run in the team, Giroud is still expected to leave Chelsea at the end of the current season. The Frenchman's contract will run out ahead of the new campaign and while there have been rumours of a renewal, nothing is certain yet. In case he does end up leaving the club, here are five experienced front-men the Blues should consider bringing in.
1. Dries Mertens (Napoli)
Former Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has been credited with turning Dries Mertens into one of Europe's most lethal goalscorers. The Belgium international was a left-winger before the Italian took charge of Napoli, constantly competing with Lorenzo Insigne for a starting spot. However, Sarri moved Mertens up-front and his numbers shot through the roof.
In the years that followed, Mertens was linked with a move to several 'bigger' clubs, including Chelsea. The recent January transfer window saw rumours of a move to Stamford Bridge gather pace, however, the deal never went over the line. The Belgian centre-forward remained in Naples, where he is currently tied with club legend Marek Hamsik at the top of the all-time goalscoring charts.
Like Giroud, Mertens is out of contract at his club at the end of the current season. While talks between the two parties are progressing well, as per Fabrizio Romano, no announcement has been made yet.
Nonetheless, the Belgian is one forward Chelsea should consider if they intend to replace Giroud next season. Not only will he provide experience to Lampard's squad, but his versatility to play across the front-three can also prove to be of value, especially with both Pedro and Willian set to depart in the summer. Furthermore, he will give the Englishman another option tactically should he choose to deploy him in place of Tammy Abraham up-front.
2. Josip Ilicic (Atalanta)
A 'late bloomer' is what one may call Atalanta's Josip Ilicic given the Slovenian forward's limited notoriety before the current season. However, having made the headlines by scoring four goals in one Champions League match against Valencia, it is safe to say that he has finally arrived on the big stage.
Ilicic moved to Italy at the start of the previous decade and has since played for three Serie A clubs. The Slovenian centre-forward secured a move to Palermo after impressing in his domestic league back in 2010. It was there that he met Gian Piero Gasperini, the man who would eventually be responsible for bringing him to Atalanta and getting the best out of him.
Despite his age, Ilicic is expected to attract plenty of interest in the upcoming summer transfer window. The Atalanta man is an exceptional attacker who is equally adept at leading the line or playing off the striker. His work-rate, playmaking abilities, dribbling skills, and mastery of set-pieces further add to his merits, making him one of the finest all-around attackers in Europe at present.
Given his current form and contract length, which runs until 2022, it will take a big offer from any side to price Ilicic away from Atalanta. Should Chelsea try their luck with the Slovenia international, they could potentially bring his price down with the help of midfielder Mario Pasalic, who the Serie A side are looking to buy following an impressive loan spell.
3. Edin Dzeko (AS Roma)
Chelsea intended to sign former Manchester City star Edin Dzeko initially instead of Olivier Giroud. The Blues had reportedly also agreed on a deal with AS Roma for the double transfer of Dzeko and Emerson Palmieri before the Bosnian himself pulled the plug. While Emerson made his move to London, Dzeko remained in Rome due to lack of assurances over game time.
Dzeko left Manchester City for AS Roma back in 2014 as the Citizens looked to renew their options up-front. During his six years in Serie A, the veteran forward has established himself as one of the most consistent forwards in the league. He has scored one hundred and two goals for the Roman club during the same time and is currently the sixth-highest goalscorer in their history.
If Lampard decides to go after a like-for-like replacement of Olivier Giroud, Dzeko should be the prime candidate. The Bosnian is known for his strength and physical presence in the opposition box and is lethal both on the ground and in air. He is equally adept at using both his feet to score, something he has done consistently over the years.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina international is currently tied with Roma until 2022, thereby ruling out any possibilities of a cheap transfer deal. Chelsea will have to pay a premium price for the 33-year-old, something that the club hierarchy is unlikely to do. However, given his attributes and his experience, the Blues should consider him as an option, even if an unfavourable one.
4. Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint Germain)
With Olivier Giroud's departure looming large in the January 2020 transfer window, Chelsea turned their attention towards Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan striker suddenly became of interest to the Blues, and several other clubs, as his negotiations with Atletico Madrid seemingly hit a standstill. In the end, though, Cavani ended up staying in Paris while Giroud in London.
Two important Chelsea members were ready to welcome Cavani with open arms in January. The first of them was head coach Frank Lampard, who admitted to being a fan of his mentality, as well as his goalscoring ability. The second was striker Tammy Abraham who revealed that he would be open to the idea of the PSG star coming in, especially given his experience.
Despite their failure to complete a move for Cavani in the winter window, the Blues could still go back in for him in the summer. The Uruguay international is all set to leave Paris Saint Germain at the end of the current season after the conclusion of his seventh season in France. PSG are yet to offer their all-time top-scorer a new deal while any hopes of moving to Atletico Madrid hang by a thread following a dispute in January.
Nonetheless, Chelsea will face stiff competition from other top European sides should they approach Cavani for a free transfer. Despite his age, the Uruguayan remains in high-demand in Europe owing to his international pedigree, goal-scoring record, experience, and all-around forward play.
5. Teemu Pukki (Norwich City)
Soon to be 30, Teemu Pukki hit the ground running in his first season in the Premier League. The Finland international had been prolific for Norwich City in the Championship last season, however, few would have bet on him to replicate his form in the top division. Nonetheless, the striker managed to hit the double digits in the league earlier this year and is his team's top scorer with eleven goals.
Pukki signed for Norwich on a free transfer before the 2018/19 season, adding another chapter to his 'journeyman' career. The Finnish striker had had stints in Finland, Spain, Germany, Scotland, and Denmark before, although none had been extremely prolific. Things turned out to be quite different for Pukki in England though as he finished his first season as top scorer in the Championship, helping Norwich earn promotion in the process.
Although the Finland international was struggling for form just before the league suspension, he showed all the qualities of a top-striker earlier in the campaign t. Due to his physical presence high up the pitch, combined with his unexpected pace and lethal goalscoring ability, Pukki proved to be a handful for several Premier League defences. His display in a shock win over Manchester City especially stood out, as he finished the match with a goal and an assist.
Should the season resume sometime in the future and Norwich City go down, it would make sense for any top tier Premier League side to make a move for Pukki. The Finnish forward should be available for a bargain price and could prove to be a valuable addition to the squad - whether he is leading the line or on the bench.Published 15 Mar 2020, 00:45 IST