Alvaro Morata had a near-perfect start to his Chelsea career.
The teething problems that new strikers can suffer were nowhere to be seen, and the calamitous situation with Diego Costa was quickly forgotten.
Arsenal bullied Morata out of the match when they held Chelsea to a draw at Stamford Bridge, and that has been much of the pattern since for the Spaniard.
Bournemouth kept the former Real Madrid man almost entirely out of the match last Saturday, with a mixture of organisation and physical dominance.
Roma then did the same. Morata was on the floor regularly, and unable to provide the Chelsea midfielders with a focal point as the Blues succumbed to a humiliating defeat in the Italian capital.
In part, it is because Chelsea have not adapted significantly.
No Diego Costa
They are hitting optimistic passes to Morata as if they still had the street-fighting instincts of Diego Costa up front. Morata has shown he is not capable of holding the ball in the same way, or tussling with defenders to earn his team ground up the pitch.
His hold-up play has been smooth on occasion, but too frequently the ball has bounced off and another wave of opposition attack has flooded towards the Chelsea defence.
The Blues’ defence has been exposed at times because of this, and – though the issues run far deeper – it has played its part in the demise of Chelsea’s back-line.
Too reliant on Hazard
Even when their line-leader is fully firing, Chelsea are dependent on Eden Hazard for creative spark. And, sometimes, for a moment of individual brilliance to earn points.
Hazard delivered frequently last season, but he is also suffering as a result of Morata’s recent dip. The link-up is yet to flourish like it did with Costa, and the Belgian is under even more pressure to deliver.
Costa used to occupy two or three defenders at once. He and Hazard would create space for one another, but Morata is yet to provide that same decoy.
The goal against Bournemouth at the weekend was hopefully a sign of things to come for Antonio Conte. Chelsea need to either change their build-up play, shape, or hope that Morata can discover his inner-Costa.
Magic is expected of Hazard, but Chelsea’s dependence is increasing with each match.
Reliance on a player as good as Hazard is natural, though the dysfunction of Chelsea’s attack has harsher effects on the rest of the team.
Written by Sam Cox
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_
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