THE attacking talent is likely to be bountiful at Stamford Bridge next season.
Timo Werner has been confirmed as a Chelsea player and a second sought-after German forward, Kai Havertz, could be joining him, along with former Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech.
Yet with his 34th birthday fast approaching, there is still room for Olivier Giroud.
Winner of free-kicks, mass consumer of hair product, owner of the largest Louis Vuitton washbag in the Premier League, Giroud could have popped down to Epsom in the afternoon and won the best turned-out honours on Derby Day.
But the French World Cup-winner is not just a pretty face, he remains capable of scoring big goals – like the one which broke down Watford last night and sent Chelsea back into the Champions League places after a 3-0 win.
Giroud was frozen out by Frank Lampard for the majority of the season, yet the Chelsea boss has always sworn by his professionalism and has rewarded the big man with a new contract for next season.
It remains to be seen whether Willian will stick around too – contract talks are still ongoing – but the Brazilian wideman struck too, from the spot.
After a shock midweek defeat at West Ham and victory for a rampant Manchester United earlier in the day, Lampard’s men had slipped out of the top four.
They needed the calmness of Giroud and Willian, as well as the energy of Christian Pulisic – a player who, as much as any other in the Premier League, has benefitted the battery recharge of football’s lockdown.
Watford might not have expected too much from this and the future of their top-flight status is likely to depend on the results of their next three matches against Norwich, Newcastle and West Ham.
That shock late defeat at West Ham had ended a run of five straight Chelsea wins, rattling Chelsea after they had appeared to be making serene progress towards Champions League qualification.
Despite much positivity during his first year in charge, Lampard’s men have chucked in a few unlikely defeats and they will surely need to strengthen in defence if they are to make any sort of title challenge next season.
As a result, Lampard ditched Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso from his defence and brought back Giroud in place of Tammy Abraham.
Watford boss Nigel Pearson decided to forgive Andre Gray for throwing a birthday party which broke social-distancing rules.
Gray was named as a sub, while Nathaniel Chalobah, who’d attended the bash, was a starter – after both had been axed from the squad to face Southampton last week for ‘health and safety’ reasons.
The Hornets have never seemed entirely up for Project Restart and only remain outside the relegation places due to the supreme incompetence of the bottom three, none of whom have won since lockdown.
Yet from these privileged ringside seats in the behind-closed-doors, it is safe to report that Watford are the shoutiest team in the Premier League.
The Hornets defenders are given a 90-minute square-bashing from Pearson in one ear and keeper Ben Foster in the other.
At one point Foster demanded that his defensive wall was made up of ‘four big f***ers’ – and Watford boast several of those.
Skipper Troy Deeney bruises the eardrums of the match officials as he does the ribs of centre-halves, telling a linesman ‘you can’t do your job’ during one first-half tirade.
Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga, meanwhile, seems to shout at his defence predominantly in Spanish.
If Watford can out-talk Chelsea, there was precious little chance of them out-footballing Lampard’s men.
It took some while for the hosts to create anything but when they did the passing was machine-gun rapid – Willian to Christian Pulisic to Giroud, Foster saving smartly with his feet.
Giroud then produced a high-pitched yelp which helped Etienne Capoue into Kevin Friend’s book.
And soon after the drinks break, Giroud opened the scoring with a goal of blissful simplicity – Ross Barkley with the straight pass, Giroud with a subtle first-time, left-footed finish, measured to ping in off the far post.
Three minutes before the break, it was two when Capoue – needlessly – barged over Pulisic and Willian thumped home the spot-kick.
The pattern remained the same for long stretches – Watford with two strict defensive lines, Chelsea with the football.
Close to the hour mark, Willian dribbled through the barbed-wire checkpoints, feeding Giroud, who forced Foster into another sharp stop.
Willian then stung Foster’s hands from range, as Watford plugged away, Pearson masterful at keeping his instructions simple. ‘Compete!’ ‘Adapt!’ ‘Work!’ ‘Stick at it!’ And occasionally ‘Aaarrrgghh!’
But he and his team were to suffer a further blow at the death as Barkley made it three as he leathered home a left-footed shot from Cesar Azpilicueta’s centre.
Only late on did Watford pose a serious threat, especially when Kepa made a decent save to keep out Danny Welbeck.
With fifteen minutes to go, Lampard had withdrawn his veteran goalscorers, Giroud and Willian.
Lampard will still need them both, from time to time, next season.
For Chelsea, as for the male-grooming industry, Giroud is a valuable man.