In Focus: Giroud's Italian job is to fire Milan into title contention
AC Milan’s forward duo could have a combined age of 73 this season — and the Rossoneri will be hoping experience can fire them to a first Scudetto in more than a decade.
The Italian giants have developed a habit for signing veteran strikers, previously bringing in Mario Mandzukic to complement 39-year-old star Zlatan Ibrahimovic last term.
Now they have moved quickly to lure former Chelsea star Olivier Giroud, 34, to the San Siro.
As Stefano Pioli's side continue their pre-season preparations against Real Madrid tonight, we examine whether the Frenchman can turn his new side into title challengers.
A bargain buy
Money is tight across Europe this summer but Milan have not been afraid to mark their return to the Champions League by splashing the cash.
Last season’s Serie A runners-up spent around £25million making Fikayo Tomori’s loan move from Chelsea permanent,and around £8.5m to convert Sandro Tonali’s loan from Brescia.
As well as those deals, they parted with £11m to replace goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma with Lille’s Mike Maignan.
That left the Rossoneri looking for oven-ready solutions at bargain prices to complement those expensive signings — and it is hard to get better value than signing Giroud for just £1m.
The gift that keeps on giving
When Arsenal parted with Giroud in 2018, there was a sense he had already passed the peak of his career while at the Emirates.
But the 110-cap French international has surpassed all expectations since leaving North London, winning the FA Cup, Europa League and Champions League across the capital at Stamford Bridge.
He also proved to be pivotal in those cup successes.
Giroud netted 11 Europa League goals as the Blues lifted the trophy in 2018-19, before scoring six times en route to the Champions League final last season.
There is also the small matter of a World Cup win in 2018, while the forward was part of France’s squad once again at Euro 2020.
A perfect fit
At 6ft 4in, Giroud is an accomplished targetman who is effective in the air and with his back to goal.
His aerial ability makes him a perfect fit for a Milan side that places a significant focus on delivering crosses into the box, with only three Serie A teams completing more than the Rossoneri’s 4.66 per 90 minutes last term.
He will also offer an additional threat from corners and free-kicks, where Pioli’s outfit are already the best performers in Italy’s top tier — no club managed more assists directly from a set-piece than Milan’s six across the 2020-21 campaign.
A role model
Despite the presence of Ibrahimovic and Mandzukic, 35, last season, Milan still had the youngest side in the league with an average age of just 24.3.
So the presence of another experienced head in the squad could be crucial if they are to mount a serious title challenge in the coming months.
Giroud alluded to this when speaking after signing for the club.
He said: "I want to give my contribution, be a big brother to the players and bring my experience.
"I hope also to be remembered here as a good person and not just a great player."
As potent as ever
Giroud featured in just 17 Premier League matches for Chelsea last season and only saw 747 minutes of top-tier action.
But he was still able to score four times for the Blues, averaging out at an impressive 0.48 goals from open play per 90, which was inside the division’s top 10 players.
Remarkably, his expected goals (xG) per 90 is even higher at 0.58, highlighting the striker’s continued ability to get into good positions.
He has not taken long to get off the mark for the Rossoneri either, scoring after just four minutes of his debut in a friendly against Nice.
As with Ibrahimovic before him, Milan have signed another veteran with plenty still to offer.
Giroud is far from finished at the top level and will give Italian defences plenty of headaches when Serie A gets under way.