Why Gonzalo Higuain isn't right for Chelsea
In a season drifting towards an utterly gloomy summer, Maurizio Sarri's arrival has lit up Chelsea. Jorginho added an extra bulb. Gonzalo Higuain is expected to follow. However, the Argentinean may dim any progress.
There was plenty to ponder after Sarri’s debut press conference. Unwilling to keep with predecessors’ nickname trends such as "special", "happy" or "normal" ones, he pleaded to be addressed by his first name. Unlike Antonio Conte’s hard work mantra, his is all fun. The 59-year-old even showed remorse in tackling earlier controversial comments on sexism and homophobia.
However, Blues fans will be particularly pleased with his perspective on transfers. Sarri claims not to be a window freak, instead prefers to improve the available players. With Eden Hazard, Willian and Thibaut Courtois facing uncertain futures, that will calm the nerves of the faithful. At least for a while.
Still, Sarri appears to be looking beyond west London for goals. Higuain, whom he worked with at Napoli, is highly-linked. Jorginho immediately set the Sarri Ball rolling, so why not?. The 26-year-old was the brain behind everything productive in Campania. A typical regista, he utilises wall passes and flicks to blitz man-marking schemes in the middle.
There are good reasons Sarri wants an Higuain reunion. As the final man at the end of the chain, the Argentine would leverage on Jorginho's creative intuitions. That’s what the ex-Empoli's boss philosophy entails. His teams adopt short, sharp passing and waves of attacks, all with the aim of creating chances.
Alvaro Morata’s dismal first season is well-documented. Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi aren’t trusted enough to champion the new era. Higuain, on the other hand, has proven himself a reliable poacher, especially under the 59-year-old. He knows the Sarri system inside-out.
The pair worked together for just one season but developed an incredible bond. Napoli was ruthless in the final third in Sarri's first year – hitting notable 80 league goals; only Roma (83) bagged more. Of that figure, Higuain notched 36, comfortably landing the Capocannoniere and equaling Gino Rossetti's Serie A record in 2015/16.
Yet, dumping Morata for Higuain may be disastrous. It's true the Spaniard didn’t live up to the hype but many players find their Premier League feet in their second season. Injury, confidence and dip in form all played their part in a woeful 17/18. At 26, Morata has many fruitful years ahead. Higuain clocks 31 in December.
You can ask whether the ex-Real Madrid forward will adjust swiftly to Premier League rigours himself? Especially after a younger and sharper Morata, who also enjoyed productive stints in Spain and Italy, didn't. Higuain simply wants to be planted clear on goal. He won't chase every ball nor compete physically with defenders.
Higuain's goals are gradually declining since that famous season under Sarri. He managed half that figure the following year and notched just 17 last term. Higuain's overall input is fading too. He garnered around 10 assists in the last three seasons and didn't even find the target from outside the box the entire 2017/18 campaign.
Dries Merten's exploits are evidence that any player can thrive under Sarri. The Belgian has notched 46 league strikes in just two seasons since Higuain left for Juventus. Before, he had managed just 21 in three years. If Mertens can thrive, who says Morata or Giroud can't? Over to you Mr Sarri.