Looking at the assist charts for Serie A so far in 2023-24, there is a surprising name at the top of the list: Olivier Giroud.
As La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) writes this morning, Saturday night’s match between Milan and Bologna at San Siro will see Giroud square off against Joshua Zirkzee who will lead the line for the visitors.
The best assister in the league is not a dribble-maniac attacking midfielder, nor even a winger who delivers crosses but instead Milan’s No.9 Giroud, who at 37 years of age continues to show his quality.
The flick-one which set Noah Okafor up to make it 3-2 in Udine is his seventh assist in this Serie A campaign and nobody has more, with only Inter’s Marcus Thuram on the same amount and he has two more appearances.
It is the other side of Giroud, the lesser-known one that unites him with players like Kvaratskhelia, Berardi, Luis Alberto, Cassano. That is, some of the forwards who were up there at the end of previous seasons.
In the last 10 seasons in Serie A, no striker has ever finished ahead of everyone for assists but Giroud is sensationally reversing the trend, distributing goals and assists in an almost scientific manner.
Take the last seven matchdays: Giroud scored goals against Atalanta, Empoli and Roma and set up his team-mates against Monza, Salernitana, Roma and Udinese. He is democratic too having served Pulisic and then Leao, Okafor (twice each), Jovic and Hernandez.
The back heel for Theo’s goal to make it 3-1 against Roma is the pearl that shines between headers and intelligent turns. The balance is completed with the two assists that UEFA awarded him in the Champions League to make nine in total.
At Arsenal Giroud reached 10 assists for two consecutive seasons, between 2012 and 2014. Splitting between being the finisher and setting up others to finish has always been a specialty of Oli, who after Udinese-Milan celebrated the milestone of 100 career assists on social media.
In 2021-22 he provided three assists, in 2022-23 five (in Serie A). What has changed? Giroud is more involved and inspired also because Milan has changed around him.
On the right, where Pulisic has raised the level (he and Giroud have gotten along great since their Chelsea days); on the left, where Theo and Leao have been joined by Reijnders. Behind him, as an attacking midfielder, Loftus-Cheek is the ideal runner for the spaces created by Giroud.
While there continues to be doubts about his future at Milan beyond the end of the current season, he is showing he can still do it at the highest level.