Morata running out of chances at Chelsea after Southampton stalemate
Restored to the starting line-up for Wednesday’s game at Stamford Bridge, the Spanish striker drew another blank to cast further doubt on his future
It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Alvaro Morata. He is immensely talented and is trying so hard to make a success of his Chelsea career but it is just not happening for him, with Wednesday night’s stalemate with Southampton just the latest in a long line of frustrating outings for the Spanish striker.
It is now 18 months since he joined the Blues from Real Madrid for £58 million (plus add-ons) and he is running out of chances to prove his worth.
As ever with Morata, there were positive moments against Southampton, with a delightful dribble in the 17th minute probably the highlight. But despite going close on numerous occasions, he failed to score and it was clear long before the end of this dour 0-0 draw that the fans’ patience is wearing thin.
It’s not that he played badly. He even managed to stick the ball in the net in the 71st minute but his strike was ruled out by the most marginal of offside calls. That decision perfectly summed up his misfortune right now.
But Morata can hardly claim that his struggles are purely down to bad luck. Indeed, he was played in on goal by Ruben Loftus-Cheek with 12 minutes of normal time remaining against Southampton, after a brilliant counter-attack sparked by the seemingly outbound Cesc Fabregas, who is in talks with Monaco, but Morata’s shot was nowhere near strong enough to beat the young Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn.
This latest blank means that Morata has now gone five games without a goal. In fairness, seven goals in 22 games this season isn’t terrible but, at the same time, it isn’t a record worthy of a striker leading the line at a ‘Big Six’ Premier League club either.
Luckily for Chelsea, such is the genius of Eden Hazard that he has regularly been able to make up for the fact that Chelsea are not in possession of a prolific centre-forward but the lack of a reliable goalscorer is holding the Blues back.
Indeed, they have now failed to score in successive home league matches for the first time since 2012. Essentially, the absence of a world-class No.9 means that Chelsea regularly fail to win games that they dominate.
Furthermore, great strikers are also able to nick wins on bad days and Morata simply does not have the requisite mental strength to step up when those around him are toiling, with even manager Maurizio Sarri moved to openly discuss the 26-year-old’s “fragility” earlier this season.
Despit this draw, Chelsea are still fourth and reasonably placed to secure a return to the Champions League but it is easy to understand why they are being linked with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, the prolific Argentine forward who previously worked under Sarri at Napoli.
The gap on Arsenal is back down to three points and the squad is coming under increasing strain, with Willian going off injured against Southampton, joining Pedro and Olivier Giroud on the sidelines.
Consequently, Wednesday was another chance for Morata to stake a claim for a regular starting berth. Once again, he failed to take it. Unfortunately, his entire Chelsea career to date has been a sorry tale of missed opportunities.