Tuesday 15 October 2019

Jamie Carragher: 'Time for Chelsea to cut losses on €65m flop Morata'

If Blues are to challenge for the title Sarri needs a forward who can press high, work hard and score goals, but the Spaniard is not delivering on any front

Alvaro Morato has failed miserably to live up to his €65m Chelsea price tag. Photo: Getty
Alvaro Morato has failed miserably to live up to his €65m Chelsea price tag. Photo: Getty

Jamie Carragher

in my playing days when Liverpool were up against Chelsea so often, for so many of the big prizes, there was an old rule about how you dealt with Didier Drogba - in my view the striker who changed the way we think about that position.

The rule was: do not rile Didier. When he was angry he seemed to play even better.

If his temper was up, he was like the Hulk, ploughing through everything in his path, impossible to knock off the ball, a real force of nature.

Looking back, I think Drogba changed perceptions about what a striker could do and the way in which a team could be shaped.

Many times he did the job of two players and it allowed his managers at Chelsea to change the team around him.

It begs the question as to what his latest successor, Alvaro Morata, will be remembered for at the club.

As things stand, I find it hard to believe he has a future at Stamford Bridge.

The notion that a player coming from outside the Premier League needs one season to settle in has always felt wrong to me - the best hit the ground running.

Morata scored 15 goals last season as Chelsea's then record signing, one fewer goal across all competitions than Drogba did in his first season, but Morata has made much less impact.

Even in the defeat by Wolves last Wednesday, I felt that he was on the ground far too much.

Assessing him as a centre-half I can see he has great ability, but he also strikes me as an opponent whom a good defender can dominate.

You can sense his belief slipping with every lost confrontation, and when he starts hitting the deck in challenges well away from the penalty area, then you really know his appetite is slipping.

He is Chelsea's most expensive outfield player of all time at €65m (£58m), second in value only to goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

From that perspective I understand why Maurizio Sarri is persisting with him when, for instance, that game at Molineux might have been better suited to Olivier Giroud.

Afford

When Chelsea face Manchester City today at Stamford Bridge, Sarri cannot afford a third defeat in four league games and the decision he faces over his strikers will be stark.

The reality is I do not think that Morata will ever click at Chelsea, and I am sure the club think that too. They have to be looking now for a new option next season.

He is 26 and his career statistics tell you that he has not played many full seasons - 34 appearances in Serie A for Juventus in 2015-16 is his highest league total.

Chelsea cannot wait. With a first-rate striker, this would be a team capable of challenging City.

All Chelsea's title-winning sides have had great strikers - Drogba or Diego Costa - and this team need one desperately.

I never played against Costa but I can tell you that the very best goalscorers bring on to the pitch a danger like no other for the opposing centre-back.

I would tell myself that I could not afford to switch off for a single second and risk reacting a fraction too late to a pass or a run.

In the big games, like this one at Stamford Bridge, the margins are fine - often just one goal.

As a defender you cannot afford that moment's loss of concentration that can decide the match.

My toughest games, physically? Those were against the like of Kevin Davies, Carlton Cole and Bobby Zamora, as they fought me relentlessly for every ball.

But my most draining games mentally were against those penalty-box assassins who needed a yard of space to score or create a goal.

I was obsessed with keeping a clean sheet, and it did not matter how the goal came against us. I would blame myself for days after.

For Chelsea, that threat just does not seem to be there with Morata, who has not scored in the league since his two against Crystal Palace on November 4.

The fact that Eden Hazard said he preferred playing with Giroud will have stuck in Morata's mind, too.

Hazard has a tendency to be very frank in his views - we saw it in the World Cup with Romelu Lukaku - and as the team's leader that would have been heard loud and clear in the dressing-room.

What you look for in a striker at the top level is goals, but what the likes of Drogba and Fernando Torres, at his Liverpool peak, also gave you was a great all-round game.

Torres at Liverpool was a phenomenally powerful player who would knock defenders all over the place, as well as being a great finisher. He had an appetite for the work which, nowadays, is the very least that is expected.

You can see that current managers have moved away from the typical predatory striker who saw it as his job to score goals and little else - players like my old team-mate Michael Owen or Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe.

Of course, in football, all trends come around again but, for the moment, managers such as Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Sarri want a high-pressing striker who is prepared to work.

They value that as much as they value individual goal tallies, and as long as the team are winning and playing well they consider the striker to be doing his job. Even if the goals are not flowing.

For Morata, neither seems to be happening. Sarri has a big decision to make today.

At Napoli last season he had a regular source of goals in his little striker Dries Mertens, who scored 18 in the league, and perhaps Hazard, with seven already, will fulfil that role this season.

But with every game, Morata is giving his club more certainty that this is a signing that has not worked.

Telegraph.co.uk

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