There was a loud cheer down in the south of France yesterday as Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac was named in Didier Deschamps’s France squad for the friendlies against Armenia and Portugal, but it may have been a little quieter in South London. Gignac’s recall could have an effect on the international future of Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud.
The French striker recently signed a new two-year extension to his current Arsenal contract, but he is expected to be out of action until at least the end of December.
When Deschamps named his squad, the inclusion of Gignac was a surprise, although very much deserved. Both coach and player had a falling out when he was in charge of Marseille, but it seems both have buried the hatchet and with Gignac’s playing some of the best football of his career, it was hard for the France national team boss to leave out the 29-year-old forward.
Under the guidance of new boss Marcelo Bielsa, there has been a complete transformation of Gignac’s attitude, fitness and ability on the pitch. He has always been a goal scorer, but it’s the hunger he has shown this season that has stood out.
Firing Marseille to the top of the table with eight goals in eight games is the best at Marseille since legend Jean-Pierre Papin and the best in the league since David Trezeguet was at AS Monaco. Not even the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic has managed that in any of his three seasons in France.
Gignac wasn’t able to take his opportunity when he was last a France international. Remembered best for his poor performances as France needed Eric Abidal’s goal to knock Ireland out of the World Cup play-offs, with a little help from Thierry Henry.
However, now with Bielsa changing the big striker’s all-round game, there is a chance the striker could become the perfect front-man for Les Bleus. He would be 31 years old come Euro 2016, but he looks fitter than he ever has before and just as hungry for goals.
If Gignac can secure some minutes over this two game friendly period, possible pick up a goal or two, he could fire himself into contention.
The problem for Giroud would be whether or not he could win his place back. Deschamps has always favourite having two central strikers and then someone else, like Loic Remy and Alexandre Lacazette than can play both central and wide. It may be that the Arsenal striker is the one to miss out.
As it stands the ball is in Gignac’s court, it is up to the big forward to take his opportunity.