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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

The stats: A look at Morata and Batshuayi's contribution to Chelsea and why they need Hazard back and one more striker

The champions beat Tottenham 2-1 at Wembley, but it is telling how few touches their strikers are having in the opposition area

Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata heads wide against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Dylan Martinez / Reuters
Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata heads wide against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Dylan Martinez / Reuters

Crisis? What crisis? Chelsea must be wondering what all the fuss was about as they put the humiliating opening day defeat to Burnley behind them with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.

But the scoreline doesn't tell the whole story. Chelsea had only 32 per cent of possession as Spurs dominated the first Premier League game played under the Wembley arch. As Richard Jolly pointed out in his post-match analysis, manager Antonio Conte revived their season by fielding three defensive midfielders, with David Luiz putting in a superb shift to protect a back three he is usually part of.

And while Conte may have been happy to surrender possession and territory to Spurs, he will be more worried by the lack of attacking thrust, particularly at the tip of the attack, relying instead on a world-class free kick and drilled effort from his left-wing back Marcos Alonso to secure three points.

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The Italian has bemoaned his lack of signings. A team carried to the title on the back of a core of 14-15 players last season looks largely threadbare this. Eden Hazard is still nursing his way back to health and Diego Costa told he has no future at the club. The two combined for 36 league goals last term, with Hazard picking up the baton after Costa's form dipped after a falling out with club and manager in January.

In their stead Conte has turned to Alvaro Morata, his marquee summer signing from Real Madrid, and Michy Batshuayi, the man whose goal at West Bromiwch Albion in May secured the Premier League crown. Both are off the mark this season, Morata in the 3-2 defeat to Burnley, while Batshuayi's sadly came at the wrong end against Spurs.

This is the conundrum for Conte: does he keep faith with Morata and Batyshuayi, try to rush Hazard back to fitness from a fractured ankle or, and this is a fair old long shot, integrate Costa back into the squad?

If we compare the stats for the first two games for Morata and Batshuayi this season and Hazard and Costa last it is obvious that touches in the opposition area are where the team is lacking.

Chelsea opened their 2016/17 campaign against West Ham United and Watford, both 2-1 wins. Hazard touched the ball 185 times (82 at home to West Ham, 103 away at Watford). Nine of those were in the penalty box, and the Belgian winger fired off seven shots, resulting in one goal. His partner in crime Costa's numbers are equally impressive: 84 touches (48 v West ham, 36 v Watford), 15 in the box with two goals from four shots.

This is an interactive Opta map. Click on the team names to clear the map and then click each player's stats individually.

Fast forward 12 months and Morata made a goalscoring debut from the bench against Burnley, replacing the ineffective Batshuayi who failed to touch the ball in the opposition box, a record that was extended against Spurs. But in 110 minutes of Premier League football, Morata has taken 47 touches, 10 inside the box with one goal from four shots. His Belgian teammate's record after two games reads: 70 minutes played, one shot, one own goal, zero touches in the opposition box, 29 touches in total.

This is an interactive Opta map. Click on the team names to clear the map and then click each player's stats individually.

There remains a fourth option for Conte: go out and buy a new striker. The transfer window shuts on August 31, but there is still plenty of business to be done.

According to the respected website Sporting Intelligence, Premier League clubs smashed their own spending records this summer, with Southampton's £15 million (Dh71) purchase of Lazio centre-back Wesley Hoedt this week brought the overall spend by England's 20 elite clubs to £1,184.9 billion. That mark could be further bolstered if Chelsea re-enter the market to add to the acquisitions of Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger.

Alexis Sanchez would tick many boxes: settled in London, a proven Premier League performer and the ability to play across the attacking line. But it seems improbable at this late stage in the window that Arsenal would countenance allowing him to leave for several reasons. Arsene Wenger would be loath to strengthen a direct rival, with Robin van Persie's defection to Manchester United still a sore point, and there would be little time to put a deal in place to bring in a player of the requisite quality to replace the Chilean. Letting the former Barcelona player run down his contract seems the lesser of two evils at this late stage.

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Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would represent an upgrade on Batshuayi and offer as near a guarantee of 20 goals a season as you can get - 125 strikes in 192 appearances for the Bundesliga club is testament to that.

The Gabon striker is known to want a move to Real Madrid. And should the Spanish club do business it opens up an intriguing possibility: could his arrival tempt Madrid to part with Cristiano Ronaldo?

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo smiles after his team won the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy match 2-1 against Fiorentina in Madrid on August 23, 2017. Denis Doyle / Getty Images
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo smiles after his team won the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy match 2-1 against Fiorentina in Madrid on August 23, 2017. Denis Doyle / Getty Images

The Portuguese is currently serving a five-match suspension, and Real are hardly missing him. They secured their first trophy of the season with a 5-1 aggregate win over Barcelona before dismantling Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 in their Primera Liga season opener at the weekend.

And while it seems highly unlikely the Spanish, European and Club World Cup champions would want to part with a man who is making it harder to argue against being the best player on the planet with every record-breaking season, should they add Aubameyang to their star-studded squad it could set in motion a chain of events whereby Conte tries to tempt Ronaldo back to the Premier League with Roman Abramovich's millions.

Just a thought.