Chelsea’s striker issues laid bare as Spurs take advantage

first_imgGiven Chelsea’s win over Manchester City exactly a month ago, it is no shock that Maurizio Sarri has continued the Eden Hazard as a false nine experiment in his bid to find the best system for the players he has at his disposal. And yet despite all the encouragement that came from becoming the first English team to beat the Premier League champions this season, the truth is the Blues have not looked anywhere near as potent going forward with the Belgium international in a central role. A 1-0 defeat to Tottenham at Wembley only served to highlight how desperate Sarri must be to get a striker in before the closure of the January window.  Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? The Blues produced 17 shots to Spurs’ six in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final and yet failed to make a breakthrough. Too often they attempted shots from long range when unable to pick a way through the home side’s defence. Their best chances fell to N’Golo Kante and Andreas Christensen – neither of whom are noted for their finishing despite the former’s improved goal return this season – with Hazard still looking to create rather than get into the six-yard box himself. Under successive managers he has slowly become the first-choice central striker, and though signing big names in January is notoriously difficult, the club must act this window to try lift the goalscoring burden off Hazard’s shoulders. Chelsea have scored just 11 goals in their last 10 Premier League matches, and five in their last six in all competitions. Since going up front against City, Hazard has scored just three of his 12 goals this season while playing in that new role. As if Sarri did not know already quite how effective his side might be were they to have a stronger focal point, he need only have looked towards the other end of the pitch. Harry Kane may have needed a VAR-assisted penalty to ensure he found the net for the sixth successive match, but it was he that won it because he was willing to run in behind the defence and draw Kepa Arrizabalaga from his goal to foul him.Harry Kane Dele Alli Tottenham 2018-19That is not Hazard’s game. The former Lille man far more enjoys picking up the ball in deeper areas and running at defences, and while he is certainly one of the very best at doing it in world football, if he is the central striker, more often than not there is no one there for him to play in once he reaches the edge of the box.Of course, he is not the only option available to Sarri, but rather depressingly for Chelsea fans he seems the most viable.Despite two goals against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Saturday, Alvaro Morata’s confidence is shot. He missed out here due to a minor hamstring problem, but with his agent having met with Sevilla in the last few days suggestions are he would rather be anywhere else than west London right now.Olivier Giroud came off the bench after missing the last two games through injury, but he has just five goals all season, with four of those coming in the Europa League. An effective impact substitute, yes, but the World Cup winner cannot be relied on to lead the line on a regular basis.The only bright spot in an attacking sense once again came from Callum Hudson-Odoi, with the teenager able to shrug off the pressures of yet another bid from Bayern Munich that arrived earlier in the day.Callum Hudson-Odoi Chelsea 2018-19He showcased exactly why the Bundesliga champions are willing to fork out £35 million ($44m) for his services with an enterprising display on both flanks on what was just his fifth senior start. The big occasion certainly did not get to him, and on this evidence Sarri would be wise to offer him more opportunities in a bid to tie him down to the new deal he was offered in the summer.This tie is far from over for Chelsea as Sarri searches for the first major silverware of his career, and the way in which they were able to dominate for long periods was in stark contrast to how his side disintegrated against Tottenham in the league earlier this season.But with it understood that their pursuit of Gonzalo Higuain has been deemed too complicated by the club’s hierarchy, attention now must turn to finding a striker of similar goalscoring pedigree.Chelsea could still win three trophies this season and secure a top-four finish in the Premier League. But on current evidence they will not get anywhere near that return while Hazard toils in an unfamiliar role.last_img

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