Chelsea are entering a new era under Maurizio Sarri and that provides a new start for every player in the squad. One problem area for the Blues last season for their lack of a reliable striker to put the goal in the net. Alvaro Morata scored only 11 Premier League goals during his first season in England, while Michy Batshuayi wasn’t given a fair chance by Antonio Conte before being loaned out. Olivier Giroud is another option, but he is unlikely to be the one to start this campaign.
The Blues haven’t been scoring a lot of goals in pre-season, as they have found the back of the net on only three occasions. Morata has been the striker to play most often and he has continued to struggle in the final third. He had a penalty saved against Arsenal and his confidence remains low after a testing first season in England.
Sarri’s style-of-play will play to the strengths of the likes of Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian as he expects his wide players to offer a goal threat. Last season, Napoli’s Jose Callejon (10) and Lorenzo Insigne (8) both contributed goals in Serie A. The latte was the team’s most productive player in the final third as he attempted an average of 4.8 shots per game.
However, Dries Mertens remained the team’s main goal threat with 18 goals in Serie A. The Belgian was a converted striker, but he adapted well to the role under Sarri and emerged as one of the best forwards in European football. It is clear that a good striker is key to the Italian’s style and he will need to select the best one for the job at Stamford Bridge. The new manager may decide to convert a player from the Chelsea squad in a similar fashion, but he will give the current strikers a fair chance first.
Morata is likely to be given a chance at the beginning of the season, as he has gained the most minutes during the friendlies. His return of 11 goals and six assists was a respectable first Premier League season, but more will be expected. The Spaniard is very good at linking up the attacking play and bringing team-mates into the game, which will suit the new style. However, he will need to score more often to justify a regular starting berth.
If he continues to struggle to score goals, Batshuayi could finally be given a chance to prove himself at Stamford Bridge. The Belgian international has started only four Premier League matches since arriving at the club. A return of seven goals in 592 minutes for the Blues in the league suggests that he can offer a consistent threat, but Antonio Conte had doubts about his overall contribution.
His loan spell at Dortmund reminded the world of his ability as he scored nine goals in 14 matches across both the Bundesliga and Europa League. Batshuayi had a strike rate of one goal every 129.8 minutes and was an excellent short-term replacement for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The 24-year-old won’t settle for an impact substitute role at Chelsea this time around and he will be pushing for regular minutes as a starter. It will be interesting to see if the new manager at Stamford Bridge is willing to provide them. There are rumours linking him away from the club before the transfer window closes, but Sarri will want to take a look at him before making a decision.
There are a lot of unknowns about Chelsea under Sarri, but the striking position remains one of the biggest problems for the Italian to address. If the Blues are to return to the Champions League at the first attempt, they need a goal-scorer and at the time of writing, it isn’t obvious who that will be from the current squad.