LONDON – Olivier Giroud is relishing the prospect of beating his old Arsenal teammates when he lines up for Chelsea in the Europa League final in Baku on May 29.
The 32-year-old French World Cup winner’s move across London 18 months ago has failed to deliver the regular first team football he hoped after falling behind compatriot Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the pecking order at Arsenal.
However, he has played a huge part in the Blues run to the Europa League final and is the joint top scorer in this season’s competition with 10 goals.
“I always like playing against my old teams,” Giroud, won three FA Cups in five-and-a-half years at Arsenal, told the Daily Mail.
“It’s going to be tough, and it could be painful if it’s not going the right way, but you have to put the feelings and memories aside.
“I enjoyed the years I spent there. It has been a big part of my career, my first club in England and it will always be special, but now I feel my blood is blue. The same as the national team, blue suits me well.”
Giroud, who on Tuesday signed a one-year contract extension with the Blues, says he found no problem in fitting in with his Chelsea teammates following his reported £18 million transfer.
“I settled in quickly. I felt like part of the family straight away,” said Giroud. “I knew a few of the players and I’m a sociable person, I always try to communicate.”
Giroud believes there is a more cut-throat culture at his new club compared to the Gunners, and part of the reason why Chelsea have outstripped Arsenal for silverware over the past decade.
“Maybe you would get more time at Arsenal. They would be more patient,” he added. “At Chelsea, you have to be ready quickly because in terms of trophies it has been the best club in England for the last 10 years.
“You don’t have time at Chelsea and when you are young, it is quite difficult to find your place. I don’t want to kill the dreams of these young Chelsea players.
“They are very talented, but it makes sense because Chelsea invest more in every transfer window, and they buy more top players in the world who are more experienced.”
Giroud has scored 17 goals in 62 appearances for Chelsea since joining in January 2018, but has largely been used as an understudy to Gonzalo Higuain since Alvaro Morata’s loan move to Atletico Madrid.
Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia added: “We are very pleased that Olivier will be a Chelsea player for another season.
Delighted to extend my blue adventure 🔵🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/4IcnR8PhOp— Olivier Giroud (@_OlivierGiroud_) May 21, 2019
“Since joining us 18 months ago, he has at times had to be patient and wait for opportunities, but has still been able to make a positive contribution to the team.
“Whether it is his unselfish link-up play or his 10 Europa League goals this season, he has been a crucial member of the squad, and we hope he will be able to pick up a second Chelsea winner’s medal in Baku later this month to accompany last season’s FA Cup win.”
With Chelsea still facing a two-window transfer ban, subject to an appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the club were keen to retain Giroud to ensure Sarri has attacking options next term.
Higuain is set to return to Juventus after a disappointing loan, while Chelsea’s Belgian winger Eden Hazard is being heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid.AFP