Chelsea and manager Maurizio Sarri have begun their 2018-19 campaign on a positive note, earning consecutive wins in their opening two Premier League matches against Huddersfield Town and Arsenal. Several players have shined, but there could be an issue up front for the Blues as time goes on.
Striker Michy Batshuayi was recently confirmed to be heading out on-loan again, this time to La Liga side Valencia for the entire season. The Belgian international scored ten goals across all competitions for Chelsea last term, before signing a loan deal with Borussia Dortmund this past January. Batshuayi would score nine goals in 14 appearances for the German club.
The 24-year-old also enjoyed a promising summer with his national side, scoring one goal at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia as Belgium finished third in the tournament.
A clinical finisher with a non-stop work rate in front of goal, Batshuayi has an impressive habit of putting himself in the right place at the right time. The first player signed by new manager Antonio Conte in the summer of 2016, the young forward has found himself in a reserve role since arriving at Stamford Bridge.
With Álvaro Morata poised to be the starting option for Sarri’s front-line, Batshuayi was set to find more of the same in the current season. The Spanish international netted 11 league goals in his first Chelsea campaign, but certainly more production is expected of a player that featured a transfer fee in the region of £60 million.
Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation puts an emphasis on the striker position, but the individual is not necessarily responsible for scoring goals all on their own. The likes of Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro Rodriguez use their skill to open up space on the wings, and will be able to attack the opposing goal as well. Hold-up play will be important for Morata, as will be his passing in the final third.
The Premier League season is a marathon, and squad depth is crucial to success. If Morata should struggle with form or injuries, Chelsea will look to Olivier Giroud to be the main striker. The Frenchman scored three league goals after arriving in January, but those are not the types of numbers Sarri will want from his number nine. His work in the opposing half can allow team-mates to flourish (as fans saw with France’s World Cup victory), although that alone may not be enough.
After Giroud, options are quite thin. Batshuayi showed the type of positive impact he can have after his fast start in the Bundesliga with Dortmund, and that is what Sarri will need if the Blues are to be back in the title race discussion. At the other end, Valencia can expect a significant boost in their attack now with Batshuayi joining Rodrigo Moreno and fellow summer-signing Kevin Gameiro.
Chelsea and Maurizio Sarri have the skill and talent within their team to have a successful run this season. However, depending on the performances at striker, they will likely regret letting Michy Batshuayi leave for all of 2018-19.