It’s been an utter gloomy summer for Chelsea. Bar Maurizio Sarri’s arrival lit by Jorginho, the Blues have missed all potential targets in the market space. Gonzalo Higuain is the latest in the growing list.
Instead of mourn, the club’s faithful should rejoice.
The Sarri ball is well underway in London. After an incredibly successful three-year experiment in Campania, the attractive brand debuts in England. Albeit with higher pressure and expectation, something the Bet Meister continues to rise above.
Beyond quitting his chain-smoking habit, the 59-year-old must end dreadful trophy drought. Enchanting football may not be sufficient without meaningful silverware. Ask Felipe Scolari.
To begin the new era, Sarri persuaded henchman Jorginho to move along from Napoli. The 26-year-old seemed destined for Manchester City but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to reunite with his mentor.
Jorginho was the livewire that made everything possible in Naples. He orchestrated play from the middle, utilising wall passes and flicks to blitz man-marking schemes.
With that settled, Sarri switched attention to the final third. Alvaro Morata underwhelmed the last term with 11 strikes in 31 Premier League matches. Olivier Giroud came in January and did a pretty decent job. But the Frenchman, as well as Michy Batshuayi aren’t Sarri kind of striker. The ex-Napoli boss didn’t hesitate to return to Italy. Higuain was top of that chain.
Both spent just one season together but developed an incredible bond. Napoli was ruthless in the final third in Sarri’s first year – hitting notable 80 league goals; only Roma (83) bagged more. Of that figure, Higuain notched 36, comfortably landing the Capocannoniere and equaling Gino Rossetti’s Serie A record in 2015/16.
Regardless, Chelsea should be thankful he favoured a switch to AC Milan over the club.
The Argentine has obviously opted for the easiest escape route, particularly after Cristiano Ronaldo touched down in Turin. The pressure would be more in England – something an ageing Higuain is well aware of. The Argentine clocks 31 in December, that’s almost five years older than his supposed predecessor.
There’s the big question whether he would swiftly adjust to Premier League rigours. Especially after a younger and sharper Morata, who also enjoyed productive stints in Spain and Italy, didn’t. Higuain simply wants to be planted clear on goal. He won’t chase every ball nor compete physically with defenders.
The Argentine’s goals are gradually declining since that famous season under Sarri. He managed half that figure the following year and notched just 17 last term. Higuain’s overall input is fading too. He garnered around 10 assists in the last three seasons and didn’t even find the target from outside the box the entire 2017/18 campaign.
In so many ways, Sarri is old-fashioned. Rather than bank on a huge paycheck to excel, he grooms his own talents.
The 59-year-old proved this by unearthing Dries Mertens, immediately Higuain left for Juventus. A forward who had notched just 21 in three years has netted over twice that figure since 2016. A better-motivated Morata will certainly do better.
Had Chelsea signed Higuain three or four years ago, it would have been a major coup. Not this present Higuain.
Written by Toby Prince
Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby
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