Following Tuesday night’s defeat to Tottenham in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final, Chelsea fans were greeted by Sky Sports’ Kaveh Solhekol announcing that Álvaro Morata wants to join Sevilla on loan until the end of the season. Almost at the exact same time, the Mail Online reported that AC Milan striker Gonzalo Higuaín was contacted by Chelsea over a January loan move. Coincidence?
With a loan move for both players a possibility, I have delved deep into both of the forwards’ recent form, looking at how the players compare and who would be better suited to lead Chelsea’s line.
Morata joined the Blues from Real Madrid in the summer of 2017 with great expectations following a hefty transfer fee. The Spaniard signed for around £60m, a club record fee at the time, and started his Chelsea career strongly. He netted six times in his first six Premier League games including an impressive hat trick against Stoke City. However, fans became increasingly frustrated with the striker as he managed just five more goals in the rest of the league season.
With an AWOL Diego Costa the only other striker at the club, Chelsea were forced to play an unconfident Morata for the majority of the season, although Olivier Giroud came in as competition in January. Morata was not just lacking quality in front of goal, his pass completion for the 2017/18 season was a measly 72%, a figure which has only marginally risen to 74% this campaign. Current manager Maurizio Sarri demands a pass-dominant style which Morata clearly struggles to adapt to.
Chelsea fans are used to seeing star man Eden Hazard leave opponents for dead with his quick feet, so when Morata could only manage a single take on per game on average last season, they became tired of their only striker barely being able to beat a man.
What about chances created? If he was not scoring chances then surely he was creating them? Not exactly. Morata created a disappointing 1.17 chances per game for his teammates.
The Spaniard struggled to score goals in the 2017/18 campaign despite registering 2.5 shots per game. By the time the summer came around, many Chelsea fans had seen enough and demanded the club to sign a world class striker, of which a certain Gonzalo Higuaín was mentioned.
The club stuck with Morata and he changed his shirt number from the ‘cursed’ 9 to a 29 that meant a lot more to him personally, so would we see a better and more clinical Morata this season?
So far this season he has only managed 1.2 shots per game, a ratio that any world class striker would struggle to produce goals with, let alone Morata. His take on success is also down to, quite frankly, an embarrassing 0.43 per game. The downward spiral does not stop there. With the way Sarri sets his team up, a striker would be expected to create more chances than he would under Antonio Conte, however Morata is creating just one chance every two games for his teammates this season.
With the Spaniard failing to deliver yet again, it is time Chelsea look for a replacement. Step up, Gonzalo Higuaín.
The Argentine has played under Sarri previously when the two worked together at Napoli. In the 2015/16 season Higuaín struck an incredible 36 Serie A goals in 35 games under the guidance of the current Chelsea boss. His relationship with Sarri could be key in signing for the club and his record under the Italian provides reason for optimism for Chelsea fans.
Higuaín’s 36th Serie A goal in the 2015/16 campaign: (Credit: YouTube – TGBDAILY)
You will do well to find a department Higuaín does not beat Morata in. Since signing for AC Milan in the summer, the Argentine has netted six league goals, one more than Morata and in fewer games. Higuaín undoubtedly suits the Sarri system better; his 87% pass completion explains why he was a favourite under the Italian boss at Napoli.
It may surprise you, given his reputation, that Higuaín completes four more take ons per game than Morata. His bulky and sluggish nature is overestimated and the stats show that Higuaín has better feet than many people give him credit for.
Yet another stat the Milan forward dwarfs Morata in is chances created. Higuaín’s teammates have the pleasure of 1.64 chances per game created by the striker, showing he is not just a born goal scorer.
A downside to the potential signing of Higuaín is his age. He turned 31 in December and is not getting any quicker. With the signing of Christian Pulisic, and the possible signings of Leandro Paredes and Nicolo Barella, it is clear that Chelsea are targeting youth in the market. The Higuaín signing, should it go through, does not match the same blueprints and would leave the club with two strikers with a combined age of 63.
Age aside, between Morata and Higuaín, there is a clear winner. Neither are who the fans would handpick if they had the chance, but if Chelsea are looking for a temporary option to guide them into the top four this season and mount a title challenge next season then Higuaín is the best available.
A better passer, a better dribbler, a better linkup player, a better finisher and a better overall player, Gonzalo Higuaín could be a very astute signing for Chelsea.
Written by Liam Wilson.
All stats credited to Squawka.com