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Two goals from Belgian hitman Michy Batshuayi, a £33m summer signing from Marseille, helped Chelsea to a 3-2 EFL Cup win over lowly Bristol Rovers on Tuesday, with the 22-year-old taking his debut season tally to three goals in three games.
Used as a substitute by Antonio Conte in the Blues’ opening two Premier League fixtures, Batshuayi took his chance to impress by the scruff of the neck against Rovers and was denied a hat-trick by the assistant’s flag, with the striker straying offside in search of his third.
Batshuayi’s eagerness to impress coupled with natural dynamism and technique makes the Belgian the ideal template for future Chelsea front men to come. This exciting change of direction, away from the static target man, is exactly what this Chelsea team is crying out for, with the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian more than deserving of a striker to dovetail their own brilliance on and off the ball.
Which brings me to Antonio Conte’s first choice striker, the peoples’ hero, Diego Costa. If I were Eden Hazard, I would be struggling to hold back words of increasing frustration at having to play with the Spaniard, with the Stamford Bridge crowd’s roars of approval at this bumbling, aggressive character sure to send me into spirals of confusion.
Costa, who was wonderfully left out of the Spain squad for Euro 2016, is deployed up top to intimidate, irritate and generally make a nuisance of himself. But who wants to see Duncan Ferguson up front with Ronaldinho, Figo and Rui Costa behind him? Not me, for one, and I fail to grasp the idea behind starting a striker, who often looks like someone’s older brother joining in a 5-a-side match, who’s main attributes are running headlong into defenders with bricks on his feet, and fighting.
Its a sad sight, and even when he does score, he looks a right state doing it. Take Cesc Fabregas’ sumptuous through-ball to him for the winner against Watford on the weekend. Costa’s first touch was an abomination, and when he finally reached the penalty area, it was only the awkward jump of Heurelho Gomes in goal that allowed his shot, which was right at the Watford keeper, to slide in.
Cue chants of ‘Diego, Diego’…
Two years ago, I wrote an article highlighting the potential problems of then-manager Jose Mourinho signing a striker such as Costa – and unfortunately I’ve been proved right, although the majority of Chelsea fans still fail to accept it. Not their fault, as some have never had anything different.
They’ve had the legendary Didier Drogba, a wonder on form but also one who could turn out like a rhino on skates. They’ve also had Romelu Lukaku, a lesser Drogba. The big target man is what they’ve had for almost ever, with only Nicolas Anelka a different beast along with Daniel Sturridge, and they were more often than not deployed on the wings.
To think that they sold Daniel Sturridge, a wonderfully gifted, technically brilliant hitman.
Coupled with that, the fact that Sergio Aguero, an animal by any other name, plays for Manchester City, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney play for United, Tottenham have Harry Kane and even Leicester have Jamie Vardy must make Chelsea fans red with envy. When was the last time the Blues had a truly world class striker capable of lifting the ground to its feet with moments of pure genius?
Drogba had it in him, but other than the Ivorian, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at the turn of the century?
Some will say that this rant is without substance, with Costa having scored 21 and 16 goals in his first two season at Stamford Bridge since his £32m move from Atletico Madrid in 2014; but my gripe is not how many goals he scores, its the style of footballer that he is.
Granted, its pure box office when he kicks off, ranting and raving at anyone with a pulse, but unlike Luis Suarez, he does not have the ability to back it up. And there will come a time where the man will run out of luck and start to regularly see red, which will put Conte and his Chelsea teammates in real trouble.
Batshuayi must start to be ushered in. He’s the only chance Chelsea have for a complete attack. There will surely come a time that the likes of Hazard and Willian will finally lose their patience and look to move on if they continue to play with Diego Costa.
Chelsea could be so much more, and they’re being held back by this ‘cult hero’. I fear for them for the next decade if by some freak chance they manage to bring back Romelu Lukaku.
Perhaps Costa should try his luck in the Middle East, seeing as he had such fun last time out, getting tackled by midgets in sumo costumes, smashing the ball as hard as he could and pushing people over: