Life under Maurizio Sarri has transitioned far smoother than many Chelsea supporters expected. Having lost their unbeaten streak following a 3-1 London derby defeat to Tottenham, and then having lost away at Wolves, the 2-0 triumph against champions Manchester City proved to be a resounding response for Sarri’s side. Indeed, the way the Blues neutralised City, and resultantly concluded their undefeated start to the new season, served as a timely reminder of their quality.
Nonetheless, despite their clear progression under Sarri’s tutelage and the effective implementation of his footballing ideals, the Blues have yet to address their striking conundrum. In arguably Chelsea’s most significant league fixture of the season, Sarri opted to utilise Eden Hazard as a false nine and left Alvaro Morata out of the matchday squad altogether. So, is it time for Chelsea to buy a truly elite striker?
Collectively, Morata and Giroud have amassed a total of 11 goals this season, but only six of which have been scored in the league. By contrast, Aguero and Jesus have attained 17 goals this season for Manchester City, Aubameyang and Lacazette have scored 19 goals for Arsenal, while Kane and Llorente have managed 14 goals for Spurs; Chelsea’s problem is strikingly clear (pun intended).
The most frustrating aspect of all is that Morata has the potential to become a truly elite striker, it’s no coincidence that the Spaniard has represented teams of Real Madrid, Juventus and Chelsea’s pedigree. He has the ability but fails to illustrate that consistently. Perhaps it’s his mental shortcomings, or perhaps he cannot adapt to the physicality of the Premier League – regardless of the reasoning, Morata has failed to fulfil his potential in England’s top flight.
Since joining the FA Cup holders at the start of last season, Morata has amassed a decent return of 22 goals in 68 games, yet his statistics are hardly reflective of a hefty £58m investment. It seems that the 26-year-old is the best example of a confidence player; there have been countless occasions in his Chelsea career where he has missed straightforward chances through overthinking his finish. Similarly, and by no coincidence, he tends to score opportunities when he isn’t afforded ample time to contemplate the finish, such as headers.
Without question, Morata is a highly technical player, but he lacks the application and the ruthlessness to become a truly exceptional striker. One other issue that has undermined his progress at Chelsea is his infuriating tendency to be caught offside. In the Premier League this season, he has been caught offside more times than the entire Bournemouth team which is indicative of his on-field issues.
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There are two prominent concerns with Morata. Firstly, and quite obviously, he doesn’t score enough goals. Secondly, and perhaps most significantly, seldom does Morata have a good game when he doesn’t score (which happens to be often). The Spaniard has outscored his attacking counterpart Giroud this term, but the Frenchman succeeds where Morata fails, by contributing to team play.
Four goals in 17 games is a rather underwhelming return, but while lacking in the goal scoring department, the Frenchman compensates with his contributions to general play. Due to his physicality and commanding presence, the Blues have a point of reference, an outlet in which they can play from. Yet, to focus solely on his physicality negates and disregards the 32-year-old’s influence.
For a player that is regarded as a target man, Giroud exhibits tremendous technicality, his close control and one-touch passing is utterly astounding. Correspondingly, the World Cup winner has established a nigh-on telepathic relationship with Eden Hazard, best evidenced by Chelsea’s 4-1 triumph against Cardiff City in September where the two interchanged seamlessly.
Much to the surprise of several Chelsea supporters, Giroud has demonstrated his capacity to play effectively in Sarri’s highly-technical system. However, the lack of goals remains a concern. Considering his career-long propensity of scoring goals as a substitute, perhaps Chelsea’s best option is to utilise the World Cup winner in this capacity. Where does that leave Morata?
As previously established, Morata’s quality is irrefutable, but he simply isn’t justifying the hefty investment that Chelsea made to purchase him from Real Madrid. Many will cite Didier Drogba, and rightly so, as a player who needed sufficient time to adapt before becoming one of the best strikers to grace the Premier League. That said, given the frenzied and frenetic tempo of modern-day football, patience is a scarce commodity, and clubs demand positive results, preferably instantaneously. Accordingly, it appears that Morata’s time could be drawing to a close in the Premier League, but where does that leave Chelsea?
A team of the Blues’ stature should have a striker of corresponding quality, but the January transfer window is notoriously a problematic time for clubs to conduct their business. While considering the inflated transfer fees, in an increasingly inflated market, and clubs’ reluctance to sell given the shortage of quality or/and affordable replacements, it can be a difficult period to navigate. Chelsea’s need for a forward of utmost quality is apparent, yet, how plausible is the notion that they could sign such an individual in the winter? The Blues are in desperate need of a striker as Giroud and Morata continue to hold back the team from its ultimate potential, yet their quest is entirely dependent on how savvy they can be in the new year.