Premier League: Chelsea Keep Loading Up, Get Their Man in Alvaro Morata
After having Romelu Lukaku snatched from under them, Chelsea have found their new No. 1 striker in former Real Madrid man Alvaro Morata.
Morata's transfer was confirmed by the club Wednesday, subject to a medical and terms, and his addition will replace striker Diego Costa, who seems very likely to leave this summer after manager Antonio Conte deemed him surplus to requirements, the latest evidence of his departure being pictures of the Spanish international partying in an Atletico Madrid shirt.
But while the Blues try to figure out how to get Costa out of town, Conte can be happy that the club is tying down one of the hottest young strikers in Europe. Morata, 24, has bounced back and forth between Real Madrid and Juventus in his adult career, but he was never able to tie down a full-time, every-match starting job at either club.
The transfer, which is reported to be somewhere around Â£58 million, seems like a tidy deal, considering the Â£75 million paid by Manchester United for Lukaku, who was reportedly Chelsea's first target. While Morata doesn't have the plethora of Premier League experience Lukaku has, Morata's strike rate is impressive in its own right.
|Season||Apps.||Goals||Assists||Minutes per Goal Scored||Shot Accuracy|
|2016-17 (Real Madrid)||14(12)||15||4||88.9||63%|
|2013-14 (Real Madrid)||3(20)||8||0||69.8||69%|
Breaking the 90-minute barrier last season is exceptional, and while there is some fluctuation in the seasons coming up to it, his accuracy is a telling sign that he can consistently find the back of the net. Throw in the 16 league assists over the past three years, and the Spaniard looks like he's able to do it all.
One of the major complaints about Morata, or at least the action of spending tens of millions of pounds on him, is that he has never started more than 16 league matches in a single season. Often this summer, Morata has been compared to Lukaku, who has started 153 Premier League matches, and many question whether Morata can go wire-to-wire as a lead striker.
However, Morata has arguably played in more big games than Lukaku. The Belgian scored 8 goals in nine appearances for Everton in the 2014-15 Europa League, but he has zero Champions League starts, and his time at West Bromwich Albion and Everton often meant that he wasn't playing in EPL games while truly competing for a top-four finish.
Meanwhile, Morata has started 17 times in Europe's top competition, and he has scored 11 goals and set up another 4. Lukaku may have a top scoring record against EPL opponents, but Morata has played in crucial, top-level matches in La Liga, Serie A and the Champions League, and he has often replicated his quality in those matches.
The radars above, courtesy of Football Radars, show that Morata's a generally better passer, but that Lukaku slightly edges him in key passes, or a pass that creates a chance on goal. The shape of both radars are superb, but Morata seems, at the moment, to be a better all-around performer. Granted, the amount of time played has likely had some impact on that.
Morata's and Lukaku's season, thanks to their respective transfer sagas, is going to be intertwined. But they do have different skillsets and will be used in different ways by their managers. Like every other player, output will be significantly impacted by the style of play and how quickly they can adapt to their new managers, teammates and systems.
Taking away all the context of the transfer, Chelsea have made a fantastic signing, especially considering they got him at a cheaper price than most predicted. The Blues are undoubtedly taking a chance on Morata's lack of starts, but it is more than worth it considering how well he's performed when he does take the pitch. If the 24-year-old can settle into West London, Chelsea will be right back on track to defend their title and maybe have a contender for the Golden Boot in the process.