When Alvaro Morata first moved to Chelsea in a record breaking deal worth approximately £60 million back in the summer of 2016, hopes were high that the Spaniard would finally bring some consistency and prowess to a position many had learnt to curse at Stamford Bridge. While Fernando Torres or Andriy Shevchenko both contributed to the success of the club in their own ways, the high expectations set for two such expensive superstars were never truly met and thus led to Chelsea fans flinching once the terms “record signing” and “striker” were even whispered.
Coming from the then current Champions League and Spanish La Liga winners Real Madrid, the former Juventus player was coming off an extremely productive and triumphant season as second fiddle to Karim Benzema, scoring 15 goals and recording 5 assists in 26 appearances, which were primarily cameos as a substitute. In short, Alvaro Morata was a highly coveted and promising centre-forward and the club was very much entitled to crave him signing for the Blues.
Branded an ‘Antonio Conte signing’ who’d immediately fit into the Italian’s then revolutionary, title-winning system, also due to the pair already having worked together successfully at Juventus, Morata initially seemed as if he’d very much live up to the high expectations set by the club and fans. Scoring emphatically on his debut in an overall terrible team performance against Burnley at the start of last season, the Spaniard went on to score 8 goals in his next 13 games and it appeared as if he were taking to the Premier League like a duck to water. At the beginning of December, however, things began to go south as 2 goals in his following 17 games contributed to Chelsea ending their season outside of the Champions League places and ultimately Antonio Conte getting sacked.
The 2018/19 season unfortunately started as the last one ended with 5 goals in 14 games not being an overly impressive tally for a striker of his stature and price tag. Chelsea fans have rightfully become impatient with the Spaniard as new coach Maurizio Sarri’s 4-3-3 system should be tailor made for the centre-forward and has been creating the second highest amount of ‘big chances’ in the Premier League. Simply put, the opportunities are most certainly there for Alvaro Morata (and, in fairness, every other of our attackers) but he simply isn’t able to pounce on them. Whether or not the rumoured mental issues and various other personal life stories are influencing the striker should be irrelevant for the club at this point; the fact of the matter is that Morata simply doesn’t work at Chelsea.
The question that obviously arises is who the Blues could acquire in January, a transfer window notorious for clubs’ unwillingness to let go of their prize assets and therefore asking for ludicrous sums in return. There have been a host of names linked to the centre-forward position at Chelsea, Callum Wilson, Marko Arnautovic and possibly even Nabil Fekir to name a few, but the most prominent one has undoubtedly been another former Real Madrid man in form of Gonzalo Higuaín. Breaking the Serie A record for scoring a staggering 36 goals in 35 league appearances under Maurizio Sarri back in 2015/16, the Argentinian was, and possibly is, the epitome of a striker tailor-made for ‘Sarrismo’ and continued his prolific form at Juventus in the following two seasons (40 goals/10 assists in 73 games).
Having turned 31 only a few weeks ago, the sole problem with Higuaín has become his age as the striker no longer runs around the field as emphatically and energetically as he used to do. This season, the Argentinian international has scored 8 goals in all competitions, a rather meager number compared to the high standards he set himself in the past few years. One must however take into consideration that Higuaín joined a rather disfunctional AC Milan side which has been severely struggling in recent history and never ended their season higher than sixth since the 2012/13 season. Random acquisitions of partially in-form players paired with a missing footballing philosophy at the club has cost the traditional Italian side dearly and the current season is no exception.
If one compares the average points tally of the clubs with Higuaín in the side then Milan’s 1,43 compared to Juventus’ 2,46/2,39 and Napoli’s 2.17 since the Argentinian’s recording breaking season paints an obvious picture. In teams with a functional, cohesive team, which plays well and creates chances, Gonzalo Higuaín will score goals and win you crucial games. Compared to Morata, the Argentinian does his job up front, standing firm in aerial duels, being able to hold up play and, most essentially, being clinical in front of goal. While some may argue about that last point, Higuaín in a Maurizio Sarri system is a different kettle of fish altogether as the two are well in tune with one another and the striker would immediately know what his coach would demand from him, something which cannot be said of any of the other options floating around.
Is Gonzalo Higuaín my preferred choice up front? Most certainly not, his age and visible decline are worrying, to say the least. Are there risks involved despite the deal initially only involving a loan? Definitely, yes, as we need our striker search to be a success in order to compete for a top 4 finish and thus provide the club with vital Champions League football necessary in our search for reinforcements in the summer, as well as keeping hold of Chelsea’s Belgian talisman, Eden Hazard. Is the acquisition of Higuaín however a viable stop-gap option which could prove to be exactly what the Blues currently need? Also a yes, as the market isn’t exactly bulging with great options down the middle and the more attractive options such as Mauro Icardi or the sort will merely be available in the summer. If the Argentinian is only able to emulate half of the fantastic form he had during Napoli’s brilliant 2015/16 season then Chelsea might receive the remaining piece of the puzzle necessary to unlock the full potential of this exciting team.
For Chelsea, the worst case scenario in regard to Gonzalo Higuaín joining would be for the striker to play exactly as many of us fans fear, namely not being able to adjust quickly enough and ultimately return to Juventus. In that case, the club would simply dust itself off and do what it’s done more often than not in the past two decades: look for a new hope at the striking position. In the end, we’ve always come out on top in these situations and the advantages of a temporary purchase of Higuaín simply outweigh the disadvantages.
Written by Jimmy Funnell (@JimmyFunnellCFC)
Stats taken from Transfermarket.co.uk