The Blues have a real No.9 who looked like he loved every minute despite playing under pressure on Saturday afternoon
For too long it had been a case of Eden Hazard having to do something special or Chelsea would fail to score, but on Saturday it was a No.9 that stepped up to break the deadlock at Stamford Bridge.
Gonzalo Higuain’s clever run allowed N’Golo Kante to slot in a lovely through ball to the striker, who did well in the tight space to fire past Jonas Lossl and open the scoring. It continued a morale-boosting 5-0 result on the night, with all eyes having been on another potential managerial casualty at Stamford Bridge. Higuain, though, eased the tension after humiliation at Bournemouth.
Unlike his predecessor, Alvaro Morata, the Argentine looked elated after his first strike, launching himself into the air and celebrating as his sharp display early in the match ended up earning him a goal.
Higuain’s first goal for Chelsea meant that he kept up a record of 37 goals in his last 37 league games playing under Sarri, but he would add another to make it 38 in the second half.
Morata all too often sulked when chances went begging, but Higuain was unphased despite being on a run of just one goal in 14 games.
The character to shoulder the weight of expectation might just be what makes the Argentina international a success at Stamford Bridge, as he aims to be the first striker since Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to get a one in two goal ratio while wearing the No.9 shirt.
It may have ‘only’ been Huddersfield, but Higuain arrived at Chelsea having only played 130 minutes since the start of the year and had been challenged to start scoring in his first month by Sarri, who is in dire need of turning around his side’s fortunes.
The 4-0 loss to Bournemouth was just the latest in a run of three league games in four where the Blues had failed to score.
They bounced back from that heavy defeat by repairing their goal difference, which had been damaged enough to see them slip past Arsenal in the Premier League table.
Hazard added a second from the spot, before making it 3-0 by rounding Lossl after collecting a through ball from Ross Barkley. Higuain put the cherry on top of the performance, linking up brilliantly with Hazard and Kante before slamming an edge-of-the-box shot past Lossl. David Luiz’s header added a fifth goal late on.
Sarriball was looking more like Sorryball as everyone offered their opinion on the players being used and how the 60-year-old had no Plan B. Sarri hasn’t listened to a word of criticism and remains as determined as ever to stick with his 4-3-3 system, using Jorginho as his midfield pivot.
He wants the perfect plan A and Higuain is central to that, making the kind of clever runs that he has challenged the likes of Hazard and Willian to look for.
Sarri says that, like Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, his side will be more successful if they perfect their primary system. Barcelona has Lionel Messi and Chelsea have Hazard. The thing is though, Barcelona had a host of other talent who were capable of finding the net.
I’m really very happy because, apart from the goals, my feeling is he’s really suitable to play very close to Eden,” Sarri told reporters at Stamford Bridge.
“I think that, on the pitch, they are really very suitable to play one close to the other. For us, this is very useful for Higuain because he will be able to score a lot of goals, but also for Eden.”
Chelsea are a long way from redemption after a difficult run of form, but they return the top four places, with Arsenal facing a tough away trip to Manchester City on Sunday. Chelsea have only beaten the bottom of the table side, but they needed to stop the downward slide ahead of their own meeting with City next weekend.
Not only does Higuain’s goals lift a previously crestfallen Chelsea side, but his movement and positive body language gives hope that he is here to end ‘the curse of No.9 shirt’ at Stamford Bridge.