During Saturday’s early kickoff against Southampton, Chelsea were two goals down with less than a quarter of the game remaining. A lackluster first 45 minutes was a perfect reflection of their general dip in performance. The Blues were second best for large parts of the game.
However, a moment of inspiration from Frenchman Olivier Giroud lifted the spirits of the players with the match ending in a 3-2 victory for the west London side. The result keeps their slim chances of making it into the fourth Champions League spot alive.
The former Arsenal striker provided the late winner with a clinical finish after Eden Hazard had brought Conte’s side back on level terms just minutes before.
Yet another disappointing display from Morata
Giroud was brought on in the 61st minute for the hapless Morata. The Spanish international was timid at best, and did not cause any sort of discomfort for the Southampton backline.
Morata offered very little when it came to keeping possession in the opposition half. His link up play with creative players such as Willian and Hazard also suffered.
Such has been the case for the majority of the matches for the young Spaniard. Barring the beginning of the season where Morata had bagged six in as many games. What first appeared to be a bargain is now starting to become a liability.
Giroud is an ideal target man
The Frenchman was signed as a replacement for the departing Michy Batshuayi. Having failed to impress Conte during his time at the club. In comparison, Giroud has had very little time to display his abilities but has shown his worth whenever called upon.
Chelsea have enjoyed comfortable victories whenever the 31-year-old has started for the English champions. They put four past Hull City in the FA Cup. Registered a 3-0 win over West Brom in the Premier League. And managed to play eye-catching football.
Yes, these are by no means stellar opposition. The indication of the quality Giroud brings to the team, however, is evident.
At the Saint Mary’s Stadium, the tall striker won aerial balls with ease and showed extreme calm with the ball at his feet. The team, in general, looked transformed. Following the first goal they seemed like scoring a goal every time they went forward.
The France international is strong in the air and is comfortable in possession when holding up play as a lone striker, something Morata is not at all adept at.
With him in the side, Chelsea have a quicker and more effective outlet for counter attacks. He drags defenders out of position and has a great first touch. Another crucial aspect of the veteran striker’s play is his calmness and elegance on the ball. These talents are rare attributes for a striker.
Against Barcelona in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 tie, Chelsea looked more threatening. They dominated the Catalans for large parts of the second half with Giroud on the pitch.
Giroud has all the abilities Conte desires in his number one striker – strength, ball control, link up play, composure and finishing. The only attributes missing from his arsenal are perhaps pace and stamina, which Morata possesses in abundance.