After a flying start to footballing life in the Premier League, how could he go from zero to hero? Alvaro Morata is showing signs of struggling to cope with the continuous physicality that English Football is equipped with, as well as the heavy fixture pile up which is beginning to take its toll. Is it just a learning curve for the young Spaniard, or are we beginning to accept the reality that he may never live up to the level of the great Chelsea strikers of the past?
Chelsea’s new record signing was the one sign of promise in an underwhelming beginning to their title defending season. The Blues looked a contrasting image from their title winning performances during the 2016/17 campaign and in their first game of the season against Burnley, they were turned over. Although Morata’s quick and decisive movement to head imperiously into the corner was a clear demonstration of his class, as was his assist for David Luiz, Chelsea went on to lose 3-2.
He resumed his impressive form by scoring in successive leagues wins over Everton and Leicester City, as Chelsea seemingly looked to have found an adequate replacement for Diego Costa.
Stoke City were next to fall victims to Morata’s brilliance as the Spaniard netted a hat-trick in a rampant 4-0 win at the Bet365 Stadium. His powerful running in possession combined with his ability to find the net had temporarily convinced the apprehensive set of Chelsea supporters who were initially skeptical following Morata’s arrival.
In football, unfortunately, ones judgment of a player can change at an alarmingly fast rate. Following a world class display against Atletico Madrid in Spain, where The Blues became the first team to win at their new stadium with Morata picking up a fine headed goal, they faced league leaders Manchester City just 3 days later.
The Spaniard suffered a hamstring injury that would keep him out for three weeks, disrupting his fine form. When returning, despite goals against the likes of Manchester United, West Brom and Newcastle, he struggled to regain the momentum he had gathered before his injury.
Along with the fixture pile up, there began to be a clear turn in the strikers overall form and impact in games. Scoring just three goals in December, pressure started to mount on the forward.
Furthermore, as Chelsea travelled to the Emirates in the new year, Morata missed three golden opportunities running through on goal, costing the Blues all three points. Dry January is not a period that a striker would want to go through, but the lack of confidence is worrying, and he is going to have to weather the testing mental storm that is currently hitting him.
The blues have too many painful reminders of high priced strikers who have not met the expectation. Fellow Spaniard Fernando Torres failed to ever recapture his unstoppable form at Liverpool, and although the goal at the Nou Camp will forever be remembered, he left the club and fans with the regret of what could have been, had he not had a serious injury, which took away that electrifying pace. Names such as Andriy Shevchenko and Samuel Eto’o had promised such potential, but neither reached the heights they had shown earlier in their careers. Morata will hope not to be a repeat of these names that once gave fans so much hope.
It is extremely easy to scapegoat the striker when he is not scoring, but still vividly in my memory is the beginning of Didier Drogba’s career.
Labelled a diver, and unable to gain a consistent rythm of goals, the Ivorian went on to become one of the arguably most influential big game players in the clubs history. Alvaro Morata had commented on the fact he had been watching Drogba videos, and the Chelsea legend’s story should inspire both him and the fans to understand that it takes time and patience to adapt to the quality and fast paced nature and physical strength of this league. For the first time in his career, he has to experience being the main source of goals. With this brings extreme pressure that some players won’t immediately find easy to cope with.
You live and die at the top level in this sport, but Chelsea’s new number 9 is still in control of his own fate. Only time will tell whether he can truly light up the Premier League, but the player has all the attributes to do so; the mentality and arrogance just needs to be developed so that he can overcome this career defining moment, and fulfill the world class potential that this talented man has.