Maurizio Sarri must be hot on his heels to take advantage of a flare up between Manuel Pellegrini and Marko Arnautovic, as the Italian head coach searches for Alvaro Morata replacements.
The relationship between Sarri and Morata is yet to reach the sort of heights that will see the Spaniard consistently fire the ball home at Stamford Bridge, and rather than working on building the former Real Madrid forward’s confidence, the Italian is likely to sell his forward in January should a suitable offer comes in.
Sarri has previously noted that the 6 foot 2 Spaniard is showing elements of mental fragility, like he saw at his former side Empoli with Riccardo Saponara, which has resulted in Morata scoring just nine times in 28 games for club and country this season.
An option for the Blues boss to consider, should he need a Morata replacement, has to be West Ham’s Arnautovic, who has shown signs of frustration at the London Stadium with his manager, Pellegrini.
In the Irons’ FA Cup clash with Championship side Birmingham on Saturday, the Austrian headed home to give his side the lead two minutes into the game, but was hauled off at the 20-minute mark and appeared disgruntled with his Chilean boss for the decision.
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Although Pellegrini claimed the early substitution was to avoid the risk of the 29-year-old picking up another injury, Arnautovic was visibly angered by the decision as he shared a few words with the 65-year-old on the way to the bench.
Only being substituted is unlikely to be the cause of the mounting frustration, given the former Stoke forward missed a large part of the festive period through injury and only returned to the starting XI at Burnley on December 30.
However, goals on his return to the London Stadium against Brighton and then the opener against Birmingham, moving him joint-top of the club’s goalscoring list with Felipe Anderson, have once again shown his importance to the Claret and Blues, who will be reluctant to sell without Arnautovic handing in a transfer request.
The Irons have turned away offers in the past, and slapped a £50million asking price on the 29-year-old when Manchester United appeared as an interested party – double what they paid Stoke for his signature in 2017.
He would at least offer Sarri the striker he desires, with a blend between Olivier Giroud’s aerial presence and Alvaro Morata’s poacher instincts. The Austrian is also competent on the ball, so the likes of Jorginho and Matteo Kovacic can feed play into his feet before Eden Hazard darts in from the wing.
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