Chelsea fans spent the first half of their summer sweating over strikers. Top scorer Diego Costa was AWOL (still is, by the way), in a public WhatsApp spat with Antonio Conte and as far away from pulling on a Chelsea shirt as Arsene Wenger. Top target Romelu Lukaku had ditched the fairy-tale reunion with his boyhood club to reunite with pantomime villain José Mourinho in Manchester. The champions were striker-less and in a dazed state of panic.
The chaos didn’t last too long, however, when Chelsea signed Alvaro Morata for up to £70m. Confusingly, the Real Madrid striker had reportedly been close to a move to Old Trafford himself before Lukaku stepped in and stole his striking spot.
So the 24-year-old reunited with Chelsea like two teenagers that had just been dumped. Either way, the hunt for a striker was over and the transfer tongues stopped wagging on that particular topic.
Until now, that is. Today, it has been reported by the Daily Telegraph that Chelsea are contemplating the option of sending Michy Batshuayi out the door – on loan or permanently – and replacing him with an experienced Premier League striker. The names that have been reportedly ‘considered’ by the Chelsea board are Christian Benteke, Fernando Llorente and Jamie Vardy.
Chelsea are looking at Jamie Vardy as well as Llorente as potential striker options to partner Alvaro Morata up front (Telegraph)
— Simon Phillips (@SiPhillipsCFC) August 21, 2017
Whilst no move appears to be close, here’s why the Blues should keep faith with Batshuayi and step away from a late move for a striker.
On the pitch
After a fantastic pre-season, even the most die-hard of Blues fans would admit that Batshuayi’s start to the season has been an unfortunate one. After five goals in the Blues’ friendly matches, the Belgian earned starts in both the Community Shield match against Arsenal and the opening day loss to Burnley at Stamford Bridge. Against the Gunners, he managed only 29 touches and won zero aerial battles and he only got a singular shot off in his 58 minutes versus Burnley.
To put a cherry on top, he was brought on by Conte against Tottenham Hotspur with his side 1-0 up in the 78th minute, only to score an own goal four minutes later. Now whilst Chelsea know a good defensive striker when they see one – think Didier Drogba heading away a corner at the near post – Batshuayi’s defensive mishaps should do nothing to judge his value to the side; that should be obvious.
Last season, Batshuayi scored goals at a rate of one every 47.8 minutes in the Premier League last season. Regardless of whether those were scored after coming on as a substitute or not, it’s an impressive statistic for a striker that was barely given a sniff at first team football. Furthermore, his goals against Watford and West Brom earned three points for Chelsea at a vital time, so his goals were far more than just ‘exhibition’ strikes; they were crucial.
Longer term thinking
He is far from the perfect striker, but as a number two to Morata and somebody to push the Spaniard to earn his place in the team, Batshuayi is perfect. Admittedly, the likes of Benteke, Vardy or Llorente may feel like more trustworthy options for Conte if he needed a ‘go-to’ man in the 70th minute of a game, but would their signings focus too much on the short-term? I believe so.
The targets in question are all key to their current teams, and would require fees north of £25m – as a minimum – to prise them away from their current sides. Any moves would almost certainly result in Chelsea being dragged into an intense saga that could drag their attention, and finances, away from other priorities in the team. With Batshuayi in the ranks, the Blues already have a £33.2m striker who is hungry to succeed.
Bar potentially Benteke (26 years old), neither of the reported targets would possess any sell-on value. Llorente is 32 years of age and Vardy is 30, meaning that Chelsea would be signing them with a direct vision on the present. In the past, the Blues have had mixed success with such an attitude. The likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres were all signed past their peak, and all left the club for free after spells of mixed success.
Desperate to succeed
In Batshuayi, 23, Chelsea have a striker that is desperate to grab his opportunity. It’s not a ‘one last big move’ thought that one may imagine is running through Llorente’s head, or the ‘chance to get some European minutes’ that may be influencing Vardy. One glance at the Belgian’s social media tells you all you need to know. He acknowledges his failings and exhibits a strong passion for the club and the side’s performances.
Here are some examples from Batshuayi’s Twitter account:
Terrible performance today & a lot of things to work on, i wont hide… but its just day one & the journey to the title is long
— Michy Batshuayi (@mbatshuayi) August 12, 2017
The striker was very candid after his poor performance in Chelsea’s 3-2 loss to Burnley.
Two goals + one disallowed (really ?! ) + 1 assist … was a good day overall Very happy with this start !! pic.twitter.com/RVDiYgzfOv
— Michy Batshuayi (@mbatshuayi) July 22, 2017
An honest assessment of a good day for the Belgian after scoring a brace in a 3-0 friendly win over Arsenal.
— Michy Batshuayi (@mbatshuayi) May 12, 2017
Batshuayi’s way of greeting the fans after scoring the title-winning goal in the 1-0 win over West Brom.
In a side that has lost characters such as John Terry, Diego Costa and a number of the club’s youth products, such passion for the club should be valued incredibly highly by Conte and the Chelsea hierarchy. In a long title race, a positive presence such as Batshuayi is a diamond to a manager, especially when he remains that way whilst watching on from the bench.
At £70m, you would expect Morata to be Chelsea’s number one striker this season. However, if he doesn’t adapt to the Premier League as quickly as Conte likes then the second striker will be in the side. This should be Batshuayi, no doubt about it, as there are few strikers out there who are more hungry to succeed in blue than him. If it keeps the club out of an unnecessary transfer saga and away from an eight-figure cheque, then all the better for Chelsea.
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