Hazard, Willian, Courtois, Kante, RCL and now even Gary Cahill. The hot topic, it seems currently, is who will be leaving Chelsea this transfer window? There is one player not being talked about and he’s someone I think could have a big impact this season. Alvaro Morata.
Much maligned by many FPL managers last season, none more so than me! It was GW19, the talk of the town was Kanexit and I fully embraced it. Kane out, Morata in. Kane hat-trick, Morata didn’t even make it onto the park. I reversed the transfer in GW22 but the damage had been done. I lost 170k places and a boat load of points. The presence of Morata would never darken my team again.
So why the change now? A number of reasons really, the first one being the price. I think 9m is an outstandingly good price for someone who should be the first choice forward for what should be a top 4 side. It goes deeper than that though.
Not being selected by Spain for the World Cup could be great news for Fantasy Managers. The pre-season at Chelsea may have been turbulent so far but the one advantage he has is that he is there and rested. The same cannot be said for Chelsea’s other attacking options. Willian, Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud all went deep into the tournament. The latter 2 players certainly won’t be in the team for the first games of the season. This will give Morata time to fully stake his claim as the clubs No. 1 striking option.
"Not being selected by Spain for the World Cup could be great news for Fantasy Managers. The pre-season at Chelsea may have been turbulent so far but the one advantage he has is that he is there and rested."
Mister 33 (more on that in a second) is the new man in charge at the Bridge. His style of high-pressing, possession-based attacking football saw his hugely impressive Napoli side register a club record 94 goals during the 16/17 season and 251 league goals in his 3 seasons in charge. He has already vowed to entertain the fans so, with his attacking 4-3-3 goals should be plentiful.
Last season Napoli ranked 1 in Serie A for attempts on goal and shots inside the box and this is where the stats are starting to back up my thinking. Morata set himself apart from his team mates last season by averaging more attempts on goal, shots in the box and efforts on target per appearance than any of his Chelsea team-mates.
The nickname Mister 33 comes from early in his managerial career. Apparently, he prepared 33 different set piece formations for one match! If there was one thing Morata was good at last season it was getting on the end of a set piece.
Style of Play
Sarri’s closest Premier League comparison is Pep Guardiola, who showered the Italian with praise when Manchester City took on Napoli in the Champions League last season. Like the Catalan, Sarri plays with a high line, presses aggressively as soon as possession is lost, dominates the ball and looks to play attacking, adventurous, progressive pass-and-move football. When it comes off, the football played looks more like a video game than real life.
Napoli’s combination of short, quick passes and forward thrust saw rise to the term ‘Sarri-ball’ to describe the way they play; imagine tiki-taka but with an emphasis on moving the ball forward rather than side-to-side. It’s not possession for the sake of possession, but with constant intent, through Napoli’s overwhelming territorial dominance – only three teams across Europe averaged more possession last season – inevitably gives teams fewer chances to score.
Up front, Napoli’s play was typified by movement, runners from deep and interchanging attackers. It could hardly be further from the aerial bombardment that started to consume Chelsea’s play once static target man Olivier Giroud was handed a starting role. The likelihood of the Frenchman starting come August is slim to none.
The Likely Line-up
Sarri favours an attacking front 3. Movement and interchanging between the attackers is key to his philosophy. Giroud is Chelsea’s other recognised striker. He managed to play a part in all 7 matches of Frances matches during the World Cup. He was very wasteful in front of goal though, registering 13 shots during the tournament but none on target. As already mentioned, Giroud’s lack of movement will not suit the style of play Sarri will look to employ. The French World Cup winner will most likely have to be content with a supporting role from the bench.
Hazard was another player who plagued me a little last season. It was somewhat of a no brainer to play and captain Hazard when he was deployed as a false 9. I fell into that trap myself. The 0-0 against Everton, the 4-1 defeat to Watford and Bournemouth’s stunning 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge only went further to prove that for all his gifts, Hazard is not a lone striker. I’m not sure how much Sarri watched Chelsea last season but it’s a safe bet that if I’ve noticed this then he will have too!
A front 3 of Hazard, Willian (if they both stay) with Morata down the middle is how I expect Chelsea to line up once all the players are back from there World Cup induced break.
One of the staples of the Sarri reign at Napoli was a strong start to the season. This was never more evident than last season when they won their first 8 games, scoring 26 goals in the process. Maurizio Sarri will be able to ease his Chelsea side into the season with a decent opening set of fixtures. Arsenal at home will always be a difficult fixture but they will also welcome Bournemouth and Cardiff to the Bridge as well as away games against Huddersfield and Newcastle. Given the fixtures and his vow to entertain the one thing that seems certain for Chelsea will be goals, something they lacked last season.
2.8%. Just 2.8% of people have him Morata in their team. That is incredibly low for a striker of his calibre. 11 goals and 6 assists in his first season proved he’s no slouch. Given the change to a more attacking philosophy and what will surely be a much more harmonious dressing room, I fully expect him to improve on both those stats in the coming season.