It’s no secret that Chelsea have lacked a presence up front last season, with Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud, and Gonzalo Higuain have all struggling to make their mark at the club. However, it is not all their own faults, and the lack of creativity from midfield has really held the Chelsea strikers back.
Last season Eden Hazard was Chelsea’s chief creator as he finished the season with 17 assists in all competitions, with 15 of those coming in the Premier League. However, after Hazard, there was not much more help, with Willian sitting on just seven Premier League assists last season. The creativity gets worse and worse the deeper you go into the Chelsea line-up, especially in midfield. Ross Barkley has the most assists from midfield in the Premier League for Chelsea, with just five.
Maurizio Sarri’s style of play forcing the Chelsea player’s to focus on building up play with possession-based football, many of Chelsea’s forwards struggled to get involved often going missing in games.
After Morata was let go to Atletico Madrid last season, Giroud and Morata were trusted to be Chelsea’s striking options. Higuain was signed from Juventus to help solve the problem, however, he was set up to fail. The Argentine has been described as an ‘old-fashioned’ number nine, and with more focus on passing the ball around the box rather than finding him in the box, it’s clear to see why Higuain struggled so badly last season.
Giroud has been a strange player since joining the Premier League. He often displays good link-up play around the penalty box, showing signs of being more adaptive to a possession-based football. However, the fact is most of Giroud’s dangerous play comes inside the penalty box, as shown in Chelsea’s 4-1 demolition of Arsenal in the Europa League final. Giroud’s presence in the box is so good that back in May 2018, the Frenchman had scored the most headed goals in Europe from the beginning of the 2015/2016 season.
Having two penalty box strikers and being unable to provide firepower for them was a huge mistake from Sarri last season. While ‘Sarriball’ is highly effective when it comes works, it didn’t suit Giroud and Higuain last season, who can’t be fully blamed for their struggles last season.