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10 May 2018

Chelsea: Who should lead the line for the Blues?

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Alvaro Morata

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Olivier Giroud

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Michy Batshuayi

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Verdict

REUTERS/David Klein

At 25, Alvaro Morata has quite the CV. 

The Spanish striker has already featured for three Champions League winning teams in Real Madrid, Juventus and now Chelsea. 

After a strong start to life in London, things have taken a turn for the worse and Morata is now fighting for his position in the team.

In January, Frenchman Olivier Giroud left Arsenal for West London in search of more game time. His move has been vindicated as he already has over 150 minutes more time on the pitch with Chelsea than with Arsenal. 

Now, Chelsea face a conundrum. They typically line up with two wide players supporting one centre forward and neither Morata nor Giroud are versatile enough to fit into the system in any other position. One of the two will have to settle for substitute appearances, or worse, leave the club.

In addition, Michy Batshuayi will be returning to London at the end of the season. Could his good form in Dortmund make him a candidate?

So, who should be leading the line for Chelsea next season?

Alvaro Morata

The Spaniard’s stellar start to the Premier League season has come to a crashing halt. Morata scored six goals in his first six games in blue, including a hat trick at Stoke. Not only was he hitting the back of the net, but he also provided two assists for his team and his hold up play was being lauded by all.

Since January, Morata has scored only once and assisted twice in 12 matches, eight of which have been starts. He has not got the excuse of a lack of time on the pitch. Why have things gone so wrong for him? 

Looking at his previous stints across Europe the answer becomes clear. At both Real Madrid and Juventus he was never the star striker. His minutes per goal ratio is fantastic, but almost all of his appearances came from the bench at those two clubs.

Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Before this season he had never played more than 1,500 minutes in a league campaign, but has now surpassed 2,000 with Chelsea. For a 25-year-old striker of such talent, it is a disappointment he has never been the main man. Morata does not have the strength to last a full season in form as this year has proven.

Even Michy Batshuayi, who has been used sparingly by Antonio Conte, almost reached 3,000 league minutes in his last season with Marseille.

Morata will have to prove that he can stick it out and put in the work during the preseason if he wants his future to be at Stamford Bridge.

Olivier Giroud

The French target man is a proven player who can cut it at the top level. Perhaps surprisingly, Giroud is the joint fifth top scorer for his national team of all time. Thanks to his renewed form at Chelsea, he will be hopeful of carrying his form into Russia in the summer.

During his time at the Emirates Stadium, he contributed with more than his fair share of goals, hitting double figures in every full league campaign. 

One puzzle of Arsene Wenger’s reign in North London is why he continuously reduced Giroud’s role until he was sat on the bench week in, week out, forcing him to move elsewhere.

REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

After a slow start, Giroud now has three league goals to his name in Chelsea colours and will look to secure his starting spot. As well as his goal scoring threat, Giroud is renowned for his ability to hold the ball up and link play, which complements with Chelsea’s wide players.

The main disadvantage of looking long term to Giroud is that time is not on his side. He turns 32 this year and Chelsea’s other forwards still have at least five or six more years at the top level to come. 

He is a player who knows the league well and has an ability to score important, late goals. In the short term, he has the credentials to be leading the line at Stamford Bridge.

Michy Batshuayi

Batshuayi looks like the odd one out among these three players. While the other two are good target men and strong in the air, Batshuayi offers more pace and trickery. He is still young, and while his loan spell to Dortmund was cut short, it offered him valuable experience.

It will be interesting to see where Batshuayi goes from here though. It does not look like he’ll be given a starting role at Chelsea, given the proven level of his competition but he also scored seven goals in 10 Bundesliga games. 

REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler

With his potential and Chelsea’s love for loan spells, it would not be surprising for Batshuayi to end up on loan to a mid-table club in the Premier League or perhaps even back to the Bundesliga. 

While he has a good scoring rate for Chelsea, most of these have come in cup games or against weaker opposition. The Belgian left a great memory behind for Blues fans, however, scoring the winner to give Atletico Madrid a rare home defeat. 

Verdict

Alvaro Morata’s debut Premier League season has, sadly, crashed and burned. 

Midway through this year, he was even rumoured to be unhappy with life in London and eager to return to Spain. Barring a turnaround both physically and mentally for him, it is hard to see a bright future for Morata at Stamford Bridge.

Olivier Giroud is a man who lacks no confidence in this division, though, and should be the man up top for the Blues. He probably only has another season or two at the top level but this is more than enough time to justify his inclusion.

A one or two-year gap could also be short enough to convince Michy Batshuayi that he has a future in West London. 

A loan spell next year followed by an easing into the squad could result in a more complete striker ready to feature for one of Europe’s big teams.

Who should lead the line for Chelsea? Let us know by commenting below.