Chelsea made the signing of the January transfer window with the acquisition of Gonzalo Higuain on a season-long loan.
The Argentinian international had played the first half of the 2018/19 season at AC Milan, scoring just six goals in 15 appearances. Although his record is far from satisfactory considering his substantially high standards, he remains one of the most distinguished strikers of his generation.
Chelsea have been craving a dependable forward since the departure of two-time Premier League title winner Diego Costa. Chelsea have scored fewer goals than any other team currently positioned in the Top 6 and Maurizio Sarri will be hoping that Higuain can fix their woes in the final third.
Alvaro Morata was unable to live up to expectations at Stamford Bridge and has been moved onto Atletico Madrid until the end of the season. The Spaniard lacked the physical qualities to convert the chances created from wide positions and scored just 24 goals in 72 appearances in all competitions.
Although Chelsea were condemned to a demoralizing 4-0 defeat at AFC Bournemouth on Wednesday, the Blues bounced back to inflict an emphatic 5-0 defeat on bottom place Huddersfield Town on Saturday.
Higuain’s impact was clear for all to see and he became the first Chelsea player to score a brace on his home league debut since 2000 in the process. It was also the first time that Chelsea had scored five goals in a Premier League match since defeating Stoke City by the same score-line in December 2017.
Maurizio Sarri required a positive result following the debacle at Dean Court in mid-week and it seems that the introduction of Higuain could prove pivotal to their chances of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in three seasons.
The Mouth-Watering Prospect of a Hazard & Higuain Partnership
Eden Hazard had previously been responsible for leading the attacking line prior to Higuain’s arrival at Stamford Bridge. Alvaro Morata was reduced to a place amongst the substitutes and Olivier Giroud has also been unable to obtain frequent playing opportunities under Sarri.
Therefore, the onus has been on Hazard to find the net and the Belgian was left wanting, especially during their 2-0 defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in January.
Chelsea is an attacking team that likes to spread the ball into wide avenues and deliver crosses into the penalty area. Didier Drogba and Diego Costa were notorious for snapping up such chances, but Hazard is of a different nature and was left isolated as a sole striker.
He prefers to be given the freedom of the final third, as it enables him to dictate their attacking game and ghost into areas unoccupied by the opposition. His weaving runs and close ball control make him a nightmare to defend against but competing for aerial duels isn’t his forte.
Alvaro Morata was sent on loan to Atletico Madrid until the end of the season, but Sarri quickly filled the void left by the misfiring Spaniard with the signing of Higuain.
The Argentine made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup 4th Round, but failed to make an impact, despite the result ending in a 2-0 win to secure their passage into the next round.
He cut a passive figure once again in their 4-0 defeat against Bournemouth, although very few Chelsea players could’ve been proud of an atrocious collective performance. But he exploded into life on Saturday and forged an extraordinary partnership with Hazard.
Hazard likes to play off a physically domineering forward, which is why he flourished when Diego Costa led the attacking line. Higuain is a similar player to Costa, although the latter boasted a significantly more irrational temperament.
They are both physically strong, extremely intelligent and have an innate ability to discover goalscoring opportunities inside the penalty area. Higuain is able to use his physical superiority to his advantage and frequently shields the ball from his opposing defenders to create time and space for Hazard to plot his next run.
It’ll be interesting to see how their partnership develops in the coming months, but Chelsea will have a far better opportunity to compete for Champions League qualification with Higuain in their ranks.
Why Higuain Could Be the Solution to Sarri’s Troubles?
Maurizio Sarri has experienced the pressure in the painstakingly problematic environment of the Premier League. Chelsea went unbeaten in their opening 12 fixtures in the Premier League and looked in good condition to forge another title pursuit.
However, a costly 3-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium enabled Liverpool and Manchester City to break clear at the summit of the league table. Chelsea have lost four of their previous eleven league fixtures and have slipped twelve points behind current leaders Liverpool.
Goal scoring has been a major issue for the Italian coach. He had formed an exceptional attacking trio of Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon in Naples but the lack of a pure target man at Chelsea has proven costly.
Chelsea set-up with overlapping full-backs and aim to launch crosses into the penalty area. Alvaro Morata’s style suits a more possession-orientated brand of football, whereas Higuain fits perfectly into the so-called ‘Sarriball’ system.
He retreats to deeper positions to involve himself in the build-up play and has an innate ability to escape the shackles of the opponent and discover spaces unoccupied by the opposing defence.
Higuain will be imperative in the attack. Not only will he provide goal scoring expertise, but his influence in the build-up play is just as important. He retreats to deeper positions to involve himself in the attack, therefore Hazard and Willian are able to free roam in more central areas so that the full-backs can temporarily act as wingers.
Chelsea have a difficult run of fixtures ahead of them. They will have to contend with playing in the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Europa League alongside their fixtures in the Premier League and Higuain could play a huge role in deciding their fate!