Should Chelsea throw more money at their striker problem?
Background photo: Vespa125125CFC, CC BY-SA 3.0
With the January transfer window open, Chelsea's main problem is poor production from their centre-forwards. Despite Maurizio Sarri's relentless attacking style, the Blues score markedly fewer goals than their top-six counterparts. Their 38 are five behind Manchester United's 43, while Arsenal and Tottenham are on 46, Liverpool 49 and Manchester City 56.
Sarri relies mostly on deploying Eden Hazard in a false nine role. Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman with notable skill, hold the ball for the wingers to overlap but they do not contribute their fair share in the finishing department. This is a major concern. Sarriball requires a ruthless, clinical striker. Chelsea must put out the help-wanted sign.
Morata and Giroud make the job far more difficult than it should be even if scoring is the hardest thing to do.
According to Transfermarkt, Morata has 9 goals in 1,498 minutes across all competitions, one every 166 minutes. He mitigates that with five assists but tradition dictates an average striker should produce a goal every other game [180 minutes]. Top-class finishers produce numbers closer to one per match. When you streamline Morata's numbers to reflect only the Premier League where he faces the stiffest competition, he has five goals in 943 minutes or 1:188, slightly below average.
Giroud is lighting up the Europa League with four goals in 309 minutes [1:77]. He isn't the impact sub in the Premier League for Chelsea that he was for Arsenal, however. The World Cup winner has one goal in 605 minutes over 16 appearances. He has four assists thanks to his remarkable understanding with Hazard but you'd like to see him get on the end of a few passes himself.
Sarri needs a striker who can multitask by playing in his teammates and finishing himself. Here are three he should consider.
The AC Milan striker struggles to hit the massive figures he did while at Juventus due to lack of quality service. Reports in Italian media suggest he could be seeking an escape. Chelsea must be his number one destination. A straight swap for Morata might suit both clubs and players. The English press mooted Higuain's suitability last summer before he chose the Rossoneri. The striker admitted he would have signed had Chelsea made contact. With the opportunity arising once more, Chelsea should pick up the phone.
Roman Abramovich has developed sticker shock in recent years. If Higuain is too pricey an option for the Russian, a more affordable solution is Bournemouth's Josh King. The 26-year-old fits into Sarri's scheme like Xherdan Shaqiri fits into a Mini Cooper. Valued at €15 million by Transfermarkt, Sarri won't need to twist Abramovich's arm. His stats don't have anyone reaching for their heart medication. He has five goals and two assists in 1,503 Premier League minutes. Regardless, that's twice as good as Giroud and he doesn't have Eden Hazard as his running buddy.
The last thing you expect is for the Blues to promote an academy product into the starting Xi. Despite his obvious hunger and ability, he wasn't favoured under former boss, Antonio Conte. Injuries slowed him up at Borussia Dortmund after a brilliant start. Now, he's struggling at Valencia where he mostly comes off the bench. To date, he's produced a single goal each in La Liga and the Champions League.
Maybe a return to familiar territory can rejuvenate the young Belgian. Never trusted despite scoring in nearly every appearance, he deserves a chance. Taking a gamble on an in-house striker through season's end may hold the greatest appeal for the owner who won't have any out-of-pocket expense.