When Olivier Giroud arrived on Monday to the France national team's headquarters at Clairefontaine, an hour south of Paris, it wouldn't be surprising if he took a deep breath of fresh air.
He was back in familiar territory, a place he knows so well and feels at home.
He was also welcoming a break from his daily routine at Chelsea, which has been rough so far this season. Last weekend, he was not in the Blues' matchday squad in their win at Southampton. Chelsea manager Frank Lampard only wanted one striker on the bench with Tammy Abraham in the starting lineup, going with Michy Batshuayi and leaving Giroud back in London.
That's not to say that Giroud is unhappy at Chelsea. He likes the club, the fans and the vibe in the dressing room, but he also wants to play. He needs to play. And so far, he has not played enough: only three games in the Premier League (one start) for a total of a mere 101 minutes. Add that to his 17 minutes in Champions League group stage play so far, and you get the picture.
If Giroud is to factor for France at the 2020 Euros, he'll need more game time at the club, and as you'd expect, he is ready to fight for it. He had a discussion with Lampard recently, who assured him that he was counting on Giroud and that he would have his chance.
When Giroud did play earlier in the season, he made the most of it. He started and scored in the UEFA Super Cup loss against Liverpool in August. He also had convincing performances in the first 45 minutes against Leicester before being subbed off. He was also solid off the bench against Norwich. Now he's waiting for another opportunity to impress his club manager.
A few days ago, he celebrated his 33rd birthday, and as he is getting older, he is also getting wiser. He doesn't want to panic yet, there is no need for it. But ahead of France's upcoming Euro qualifying matches against Iceland (Friday at 2:45 p.m. ET, watch live on ESPN2) and Turkey (Tuesday at 2:35 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+), manager Didier Deschamps has expressed his concern over Giroud's situation.
"I am worried. I don't take away what Olivier has achieved with us. His recent performances were very good. He is the third-best scorer with the national team. But I wish his situation would change. Above his efficiency, it is also about his rhythm. He already had times before where he was not playing much. But at the moment, it is not enough, fitness-wise. He cannot be at his best," Deschamps said on Monday.
But Deschamps knows Giroud inside-out. He knows he can rely on him and that he will not give up.
It is reminiscent of what happened at the start of the 2017-18 campaign when Giroud was still at Arsenal. Behind Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, he was third choice and he had to leave in January. He went across town in search for more playing time to ensure his spot on the 2018 World Cup squad.
The move worked well for him and for Les Bleus. Even though he didn't score in Russia, Giroud featured in seven matches as France secured their second World Cup trophy.
Could the same happen in January 2020? It is a possibility, but there is still a long way to go before the transfer window opens anew. For now, Giroud wants to show Lampard that he deserves to play more, that he can score goals for Chelsea and bring something different to the team. All of Giroud's career has been defined by such adversity and the need to prove people wrong. This is nothing new to him. It is just a new chapter and he's used to it.
On Friday in Reykjavik, Giroud will start up front alongside Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann. It will be his 94th cap for Les Bleus and he will be looking for his 36th international goal. It will do him a lot of good to play a big part of the game. There is also a very strong chance that he will then start again against Turkey next week at the Stade de France. Starting two games in a row has been so rare this season that it would be great for him to shine at this point in time.
The international break can be tiring for some players, but for Giroud, it represents a breath of fresh air. Hopefully, it'll give him a lot more confidence and momentum before going back to the grind at Chelsea and fighting for his place.