Gonzalo Higuain might regret his decision to join Chelsea after the Blues suffered a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Man City on Sunday afternoon. The Argentinian striker was left chasing shadows throughout the game, which amounted to Chelsea’s heaviest defeat in 28 years. It saw them slip down to sixth in the table and caused coach Maurizio Sarri to become the favourite to be the next manager to be axed from his post. It is not exactly what Higuain would have dreamed of as he finally made the move to the English top flight.
He made an inauspicious start to life at the club as they slumped to a 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth on his debut. Those painful memories were banished in a 5-0 victory over Huddersfield, with Higuain scoring twice and striking up an eye-catching partnership with Eden Hazard. But Chelsea were positively eviscerated by the Premiership champions on Sunday and Higuain has clearly joined a club in turmoil. If you take a look at the futures prices at a top site such as Bovada you will see that the Blues are now clear outsiders in the race to finish in the top four.
Another season of Europa League football would not exactly do wonders for a club that owner Roman Abramovich seems to be falling out of love with. They are just a point behind fourth-placed Man Utd, and level on points with fifth-placed Arsenal, so there is plenty of time for them to surge back into the top four, but their recent form is alarming. Man Utd has won 10 out of 11 games since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the reins and the Red Devils look destined for that fourth-placed spot.
The alternative for Chelsea is to go on and win the Europa League, as victory in that competition yields a place in next season’s Champions League. Chelsea are still the favourites to go on and win the trophy, but they are not exactly driving fear into the hearts of their rivals with such abject performances. The standard of opposition is not great in Europe’s secondary competition, but Arsenal are very much in the mix, as are Napoli.
Arsenal beat Chelsea comprehensively when they last met, while Napoli has been strong all season and they would be keen to get one over former boss Sarri – provided he is still in a job by the latter stages of the competition. Yet Higuain could make all the difference. The Blues have long been crying out for a dynamic center-forward to lead the line with aplomb. They have looked toothless ever since Diego Costa left, with Olivier Giroud unable to get the goals they need and Hazard uncomfortable in a central role.
Higuain has all the key ingredients in his game to spark a huge improvement for Chelsea. He is a lethal finisher, his movement is superb and he loves to operate as the focal point in attack. Sarri knows him well from their time at Napoli together, and he should be able to get the best out of the Argentinian forward.
Higuain was the most talented striker for years in Italy after joining Napoli from Real Madrid. That is why Juventus paid £75 million to snap him up in 2016, and he led the line well for them, winning two league titles in the process. But Juve could not turn down the opportunity to sign Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, and they had to balance the books, so Higuain was the makeweight, and he ended up on loan at AC Milan. The Rossoneri are also in dire straits, but Higuain must fear he has traded one fallen giant for another. However, he has the ability to restore Chelsea to a position of strength, with Hazard and Willian buzzing around either side of him, and it will be fascinating to see if he can fire them to Europa League glory and back into the top four.