Why it's time for Conte to unleash Olivier Giroud
With Chelsea struggling for form of late, Olivier Giroud might just be the man to save their season - here's why Conte needs to unleash him.
It's quite clear to see that Chelsea have had a poor run of form in recent weeks. Four defeats in their last five Premier League matches, losses against both Manchester clubs have showcased how Antonio Conte is beginning to run out of innovative tactics.
With nine league fixtures remaining and the Blues finding themselves five points adrift of the top-four places, they simply cannot afford to lose any more ground on their rivals. With Crystal Palace ahead this weekend, they need to quickly build some momentum and establish the right team balance too.
In three of their defeats to Bournemouth, Watford and Manchester City, Eden Hazard started in the false nine role. Álvaro Morata started as their lone striker at Old Trafford - the only victory among these matches came when Giroud started up-top against West Bromwich Albion.
During his tenure at Chelsea, there have been multiple reports about how the club are signing players who Conte himself does not desire. With that in mind, he's left trying to adjust with a side which are not completely suitable to his ideals. Since the start of the campaign, Conte has been asking for a tall but equally strong forward, one who can hold up the ball well and bring others into play.
Morata initially appeared as though he was able to do this quite comfortably, but it's clearly not his main strengths. Despite his obvious quality, Conte has never really trusted Michy Batshuayi to do such and it's no surprise then that Chelsea were content in letting him leave for Borussia Dortmund on a loan deal.
Giroud is a Conte acquisition. A tall striker, brilliant with his back against goal, he excels when bringing team-mates around him into build-up play in-and-around the final third. With proven Premier League experience, Giroud is a shrewd acquisition but one that has been used conservatively by the manager thus far.
In all the matches he's started, Chelsea have won - albeit against weaker opponents thus far. In other games though, he's often found himself brought on with too much to do in too little time to make his mark.
With France, Giroud has shown on multiple occasions just how influential he can be when a team plays to his strengths. There's a reason why, despite France's great attacking talents, Giroud remains their first-choice forward. His style didn't always suit Arsenal's gameplan but it does fit perfectly towards Conte's vision and having already shown encouraging signs of forming the same partnership alongside Eden Hazard, it's similar to the one he built alongside Antoine Griezmann at international level.
Giroud has already shown great understanding with his new teammates. In his limited time in Chelsea colours, he has played some neat one-touch football with the likes of Willian, Pedro, Cesc Fabregas and the aforementioned Hazard. He has displayed an eagerness to fight for the side, despite arguably not having the same technical gifts as other attackers in their team.
Morata's poor form and Hazard's lack of suitability in the false nine role mean that Conte has to trust Giroud to lead Chelsea's line going forward. The Blues must break their poor run of form and the 31-year-old might just be the man to spearhead their attack.
Conte's long-term future at Stamford Bridge is under an increasing level of pressure and the Italian knows what fate awaits him, should results not improve quickly. With their big trip to Barcelona ahead in midweek, it's clear that Conte has to find his best starting eleven - Giroud might just help him with that.