Can Higuain Break Chelsea's Number '9' Curse?
Chelsea's number nines have managed to score just 36 Premier League goals in the last 15 years.
With looming doubts over a potential Champions League finish and evident troubles in front of goal, Roman Abramovich's Chelsea, yet again, have turned to the transfer market. The Blues have secured the services of the 31-year-old Gonzalo Higuain from Juventus. The Argentine striker, who reportedly snubbed Chelsea to join AC Milan in the summer, has now moved to Stamford Bridge from parent club Juventus for the remainder of the season. Chelsea will pay him a weekly wage of £270,000 and have an option to extend the loan till June 2020.
The likes of Fernando Torres, at his peak, banging in 65 goals in 102 matches for Liverpool, failed to break the curse. The Spaniard notched up just 20 goals in 110 appearances for the Blues, and who can forget THAT miss against Manchester United in the league. But he wasn't the only one, as a matter of fact, Chelsea's number nines have managed to score just 36 Premier League goals in the last 15 years.
However, 'El Pipita' holds the edge having already worked with Sarri at Napoli, where he went on to equal the Serie A record for most goals in a season, netting 36 goals in 35 matches in the 2015/16 campaign. Chelsea will turn to him as they look to solve their problems in front of the goal this season. If we take a closer look at Chelsea's stats this season, the problem seems evident. They rank second for key passes (289) in the Premier League this season, yet their return of 40 goals is the worst in the top six. They've missed 37 clear-cut chances, which is the third highest in the league this season and their 10.8% conversion rate remains the 10th highest in the league. Morata's misfiring performances and the lack of an agile replacement has left Chelsea searching for answers, deploying star-man Eden Hazard in the 'False 9' position. The Belgian started off very well but has started to wear out in the role as the season has progressed. The lack of an attacking focal point has been Chelsea's biggest problem. Olivier Giroud has looked Chelsea's best striker, helping Hazard play off him. But he too has been weak in front of goal, displaying a conversion rate of 11.4% since the 2017/18 season. Clearly, Sarri's Chelsea are in dire need of a strong striker, who can hold up play, distribute forward balls to wingers and most importantly, finish.
"He is a very strong striker, especially in my first season at Naples. He did very, very well. For sure, he is one of the best strikers in my career." said Sarri upon the Argentine's arrival. Higuain added, "It's a team I've always liked that has a lot of history, a wonderful stadium and they play in the Premier League, a league I've always wanted to play in. I now hope I can give back that trust Chelsea have shown me out on the pitch. I can't wait to start and I hope to adapt as soon as possible." A striker who holds one of the best resumes in European football, having played at Real Madrid, Napoli, Juventus and AC Milan; Higuain arrives with a wealth of experience at the highest level having consistently shown his attacking quality and winning numerous titles in both Spain and Italy. But looking at his recent goal-scoring record, one may presume that he's past his best. His tally of 22 goals in the last 50 appearances wouldn't impress many Chelsea fans. His conversion rate over the last 18 months has also been poor at 13.9%.
However, Higuain has shown that he can thrive in Sarri's system and Chelsea fans will hope the Argentine picks up where he left off with his mentor at Napoli. The cursed number '9' too shouldn't worry Higuain having represented the biggest clubs in football throughout his career. The prospect of him linking up Hazard on the left flank is surely exciting news for Chelsea and their supporters but the 31-year-old knows he's on a tight rope as the Blues have shown their impatience with players and managers in the past. Sarri too will be hoping for Higuain to start firing almost immediately as Chelsea vie with Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United for two potential Champions League spots this season.
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