x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 December 2017

Alvaro Morata a bright spark on a dark day for Chelsea: A look at the stats

Spain international displayed his class with a goal and assist in his 31-minute debut for the Premier League champions.

Alvaro Morata provided reason for optimism despite Chelsea's shock defeat to Burnley on the opening weekend of the Premier League season. John Walton / PA
Alvaro Morata provided reason for optimism despite Chelsea's shock defeat to Burnley on the opening weekend of the Premier League season. John Walton / PA

There is no denying it - Chelsea's Premier League title defence has started in shambolic fashion.

There were concerns surrounding the champions leading up to the big kick-off, with manager Antonio Conte voicing his concerns over a thread-bare squad. But no one would have expected what was to unfold at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Burnley, a team that registered one away win all last season, found themselves 3-0 up at half-time following the sending off of Chelsea captain Gary Cahill inside the first 15 minutes.

READ MORE:

Despite a stirring second half fightback, Chelsea were reduced to nine men following Cesc Fabregas's red card and slumped to one of the most surprising defeats in their recent history.

While there will be plenty of deflated Chelsea fans around the world, there was one major positive to be taken from Saturday. The 31-minute debut of club record signing Alvaro Morata offered a glimpse into what the club can expect from the Spain international.

Arriving on the pitch with his side 3-0 down, Morata scored 10 minutes after his introduction, displaying subtle movement, awareness and a deft touch to guide his header past Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal.

His goal galvanised his team and the Stamford Bridge crowd, and 19 minutes later the former Real Madrid striker set up David Luiz with a glancing header for Chelsea's second. Morata also achieved a 100 per cent pass success rate - five pass attempts, five completed.

While it remains very early days in his Chelsea career, the signs are so far encouraging that Morata, 24, will provide an effective attacking focal point and prove an able successor to Diego Costa, whose 20 goals last season played such a significant role in the club's title success.

Compare Morata's 31-minute spell with the striker he replaced and the difference could barely be more stark.

Michy Batshuayi managed a solitary shot on target in 59 minutes, failed to draw any fouls from Burnley defenders, and managed a pass success rate of 66.7 per cent. The Belgian was used primarily as a back-to-goal target man, with 55.6 per cent of his passes played backward.

Ultimately, Morata provided a far greater goal threat in 31 minutes with his goal and assist than Batshuayi managed in nearly double the time.

Batshuayi was significantly underused last season and there is the expectation that the former Marseille striker will enjoy more minutes this year, with Chelsea back in the Uefa Champions League.

However, on the evidence presented from the opening game, not to mention Morata's £70 million (Dh332.4m) price tag, the Spaniard is sure to be viewed as Conte's undisputed No 1 striker this season.

Conte put Morata's absence from the starting line-up against Burnley down to his lack of match fitness and his need to "understand our idea of football". It will be interesting to see, given his immediate impact, if Conte picks Morata from the start in their next game - a trip to Wembley stadium to face title rivals Tottenham Hotspur.