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"Very special" - EPL star Giroud recalls eventful UEL final against Arsenal

Giroud took time to reflect, a year on from their Europa League win against Arsenal. (Picture: Sportskeeda)
Giroud took time to reflect, a year on from their Europa League win against Arsenal. (Picture: Sportskeeda)
Mo Omi
TOP CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 29 May 2020
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EPL striker Olivier Giroud has described what was an extra special occasion for him against former club Arsenal, as he won last season's Europa League with Chelsea a year ago today.

Giroud spent five-and-a-half years at the Emirates before sealing a surprise switch to their EPL rivals Chelsea in January 2018, reportedly unhappy about his first-team opportunities.

As soon as he knew the two EPL rivals would meet in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku last May, the fixture meant even more to him on a personal level.

Nonetheless, the World Cup winner claims personal thoughts were swiftly put to one side as he focused on earning the first European club trophy of his career last season.

He broke the deadlock with a well-taken header early in the second-half, before winning a penalty - which Eden Hazard converted - after being hauled down by Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Giroud also teed up Chelsea's star man Hazard with a well-worked chip as the Belgian, playing his last game for the EPL giants before joining Real Madrid, finished with aplomb.

As quoted by the club's official website, Giroud was full of emotion ahead of the clash.

"That final against Arsenal was obviously very special for me emotionally, when I saw that we were going to face [them], I knew it was going to be special.
On top of that, it was only a year after I left. I have quite a lot of friends over there, people who work in the club's offices. That was extra motivaation for me and I knew that it was going to be a high-pressure match."
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Giroud had already featured against his former employers in their two EPL meetings that season, with cameo appearances from the substitutes bench.

Starting against them in a final though, of such importance, was always going to be different.

"You definitely prepare for the match in a special way, in a different way, because you know that they know you inside out, and they know that I know them well too. You have to plan for the match but not play before it's happened, to think ahead."

He discussed his relationships with two key experienced EPL players, which was always going to make for intriguing viewing in Baku.

"I thought that if I had a one-on-one with Petr Cech, who knows me really well, or a penalty, I would have to shoot there and not somewhere else. I was also going to play against my friend Laurent Koscielny, who has also known me inside-out for years because we started together at Tours in 2008."

EPL striker Giroud describes extra motivation to win

Entering the final as the competition's joint-leading goalscorer last season, Maurizio Sarri started him and after a nervy penalty shootout win over Eintracht Frankfurt at the semi-final stage, Giroud had 'extra motivation' to emerge victorious against his former club.

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Nonetheless, the overall experience was better than the EPL forward could have imagined.

"I scored, got an assist and won the penalty so quite a lot of good things happened there for me because I was involved in three of the four goals we scored. It was like in a dream because I couldn't have imagined that it would go so well, so perfectly for us.
I wanted to win things at Chelsea - that's why I was even more motivated that night - but winning against your old club like that... I went out there to win the trophy. That's how you can leave your mark on history, by writing your name in the record books."

Giroud will be eagerly anticipating the EPL resuming play next month, as Frank Lampard's men can still win silverware this term while finishing the EPL season strongly.

Published 29 May 2020, 20:16 IST
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