Connect in the back of the net

Chelsea announced this weekend that they had completed the signing of Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi from Marseille for a fee of £33 million.

With numerous clubs said to be interested in the player, his capture represents a bit of a coup for the Blues given they can’t offer European football this coming season but unquestionably they have taken a bit of a gamble.

Certainly, the fee is a large one and represents a lot of money to spend on a player who is only 22 years old and has very limited experience of competing at the top level.

In this day and age, that’s not particularly exceptional in itself although it’s fair to say Chelsea wouldn’t have expected to have had to pay that much when they first moved for the player last month.

 

Hot property

Batshuayi is the latest hot Belgian property and his rise has been a rapid one.

He joined Marseille two years ago for just £4.5 million from Standard Liege and has really developed his game in the South of France.

The Belgian was one of the most impressive strikers in Ligue 1 last term netting 17 goals, a tally only bettered by PSG duo Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani and Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette.

His form has also brought international recognition with Belgium and he made two substitute appearances at Euro 2016 and scored in the 4-0 win over Hungary in the last 16.

 

Competition

Certainly over the coming years he will be looking to compete with the likes of former Chelsea man Romelu Lukaku for a starting role and he can certainly do that if he impresses in the Premier League with Chelsea.

At club level, that man will be Diego Costa although given new Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has often favoured a 3-5-2 formation during his managerial career, we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that both men could start together.

They would certainly represent a very powerful front line with Batshuayi possessing tremendous upper body strength even though he isn’t particularly tall for striker.

Comparisons have already been drawn with Diego Drogba, who also joined the Blues from Marseille and went on to enjoy a fantastic career at Stamford Bridge.

Certainly there are similarities in their style of play but it would be unrealistic for Chelsea fans to expect Batshuayi to have the same kind of immediate impact that the Ivorian did.

Drogba was four years older than Batshuayi when he moved to West London in 2004 and at the same age as the Belgian is now, he was still a misfiring striker in Ligue 2.

Batshuayi is by no means the complete package and his road to the top has been a bumpy one and Chelsea fans may need to be patient with him as there are likely to be more setbacks ahead.

 

Nomadic beginnings

His youth career was a nomadic one where he failed to settle at various clubs before finally finding his feet at Standard Liege.

The early days of his professional career were not without their flaws too with a sending off and subsequent 4 match ban for stamping on an opponent’s chest what his first full season with Liege was best remembered for.

He does seem to have found his focus since though and has really developed into a highly promising player and someone who both scores and creates goals as 9 assists in Ligue 1 last season to go with his 17 goals would demonstrate.

 

Individualist

However, he still has aspects of his game to work on.

He’s not great in the air and has been criticised for not being a team player at times which is something Conte will be determined to drill into him.

If Batshuayi had been signed to replace Diego Costa, then Chelsea would have been taking a massive gamble on the Belgian.

However on the assumption that he is not going anywhere, it seems like a smart move.

 

A more worthy forward option

Certainly, Batshuayi will provide a better alternative up front than the likes of Alexandre Pato and Falcao who have just departed the club.

Chelsea have been highly reliant on Costa over the past couple of years and when he’s been absent or not in form they have invariably struggled.

They now should at least have a viable alternative and although 22 year old Batshuayi is unlikely to go straight into the team, he should get just enough football to allow him bed into life at Stamford Bridge without being under enormous pressure to be an instant hit.

 

Written by Mark Sochon

Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol

Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!

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