By Abdulmajeed Bakare (@simply_ambo)
Chelsea’s shambolic weekend display against the Gunners cannot be understated. A lot went wrong for Chelsea in the game against Arsenal. However, the lack of a reliable focal point in attack was the most obvious of it all.
Maurizio Sarri needed a striker in the game. Although he had two, one was already on the way out. The other was not particularly reliable. The domino effect in this winter transfer window means Gonzalo Higuain will join the Blues.
Time for change.
But could the loan signing of El Pipita from Juventus via AC Milan be a potential source of relief for them?
Maurizio Sarri’s Rigidity
Unlike other title challengers in the league, Chelsea had a lack of flexible options in and around their squad. And this was especially noticeable. This will usually help even the most rigid of coaches utilize players in different tactics, formations or what have you, to get the best results to spur the team on.
The game against Arsenal was one in which they needed to keep their heads up and have their star man (Hazard) firing on all cylinders. It was however shocking Sarri stubbornly stuck him in the “false 9” role again.
Sarri is an average manager and it bothers me. https://t.co/pdRwB8WmxS
— Ayomide (@_Chullo) January 22, 2019
His unwillingness to rely on Morata or Giroud in such big games is understandable. But his stubbornness to switch from the false 9 system has cost them. And here’s how.
In the Garden of Eden: Hazard has not exactly thrived in the capacity thrusted upon him by the Sarri dynasty
Hazard is not allowed the freedom to drift around the park, something which helps him create chances and score goals. It was all the more pronounced when Olivier Giroud came on late. It began a brief period of play where Hazard saw more of the ball in his more natural role.
Flexibility of tactics. Italian managers take so much pride in their tactical prowess. So far so good this man has been dogmatic and has poor attitude towards change. Players like Alonslow and Willian shouldn't be nowhere that team. Even Azpi should be replaced by better fbs.
— Ayomide (@_Chullo) January 22, 2019
Of course the fullbacks now had a target man to make crosses. But it was that came albeit a little too late. It’s clear he works better with Olivier Giroud as he’s able to play one-two passes with him.
Yes, Maurizio Sarri has used the false nine before at Napoli. He has used it less often at Chelsea. The difference here is Hazard and fact is you might not get the best out of him with his back to goal.
The player himself has come out to say on few occasions that he prefers to play on the left than with his back to goal. Gonzalo Higuain is a better option to play with his back to goal as he’s strong enough to hold off defenders while keeping possession.
Is Higuain the Answer?
With Higuain, the question marks remain. Will he cope in the Premier League? How many more goals has he left remaining in his scoring boots?
To get answers to these questions, the first real encouraging omen is his working experience with Sarri. It was a brilliant one that cannot be overlooked.
Will this reunion be a fruitful one?
In so many ways he’s better than the man he’ll potentially replace in Alvaro Morata. In Higuain, Chelsea will have a few things they have been missing. Unlike Morata, Higuain doesn’t go to ground at the slightest of touches or lose possession as easily. These two things can make the fans turn their backs on any player before you say Jack.
Modern football and Sarri ball in particular places so much emphasis on the build-up play. For it to work, we all know great passes (and passers) are important. Higuain has the best accuracy amongst the three strikers and can either go with a long, short or a simple lay-up pass.
Lethal Striker or Not?
• Gonzalo Higuain – 2.3 accurate per 90 and 0.3 inaccurate
• Alvaro Morata – 0.4 accurate per 90 and 0.5 inaccurate
• Olivier Giroud – 0.6 accurate per 90 and 0 inaccurate.
• Gonzalo Higuain – 17.3 accurate per 90 and 3.5 inaccurate
• Alvaro Morata – 16.4 accurate per 90 and 4.6 inaccurate
• Olivier Giroud – 19.6 accurate per 90 and 9.3 inaccurate
*stats culled from Talksport
Another potent weapon that should serve Higuain well is ability to recognize space. In this regard, he is very much unlike the other two counterparts. He also takes more shots per 90 (3.9) compared to Morata (3.3) and Giroud (3.3).
He’s a better proven finisher too especially as he has good balance and can generate power in his shots from almost any angle with both feet. The debate about his age is one that won’t stop until he proves doubters wrong.
But ultimately in a tactical sense he will give Maurizio a different problem to focus on at least until the next window where he might have more surgical operations on the team. Also a different style of play can be deployed.
As he won’t have to use Hazard in the false nine system anymore this will open space to for midfield runners or wingers to operate in the half spaces between opposing centre-backs and fullbacks somewhat like city and indeed the Sarri-ball itself might be manifested a bit more.
Although a good target man whom it will be interesting to see the kind of link up play he creates with Hazard, Willian, and Pedro, it’s noteworthy to say Gonzalo Higuain’s powers of speed, ball control and shot accuracy are on the wane.
In the grand scale of things, Higuain looks a capable short-term improvement upfront for Sarri and the Blues. Signing him on loan could bring some bit of positive energy back into the dressing room. It gives the team more bite in attack. It also gives the manager a much needed confidence boost. At least he has not lost the board’s backing… yet.
Do you share the same view? Do you think the Blues don’t need Higuain? Leave us your comments and share your thoughts with us.
Author: For The Goal
You can keep in touch with us on most social media platforms @iamforthegoal