SO Roman Abramovich’s filthy-rich Chelsea go out and sign one of the biggest-name strikers in the world. What could possibly wrong?
Well if the experiences of Andrei Shevchenko, Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao and Alvaro Morata are anything to by, Gonzalo Higuain might have his work cut out.
The Argentine striker, who is joining on loan from Juventus, is surely capable of being that rarest of things: a genuine January transfer-window game-changer.
He is a muscular target man who ought to thrive in the Premier League — perhaps another Didier Drogba or Diego Costa rather than all of those expensive Chelsea flops.
Yet now, at 31, he feels like a Chelsea signing from the pre-Abramovich era.
Like Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Vialli, Marcel Desailly or Didier Deschamps — great players just past their prime, yet still class acts.
The question is: does Higuain have enough gas in the tank to compete in what is, increasingly, a young man’s league?
Maurizio Sarri will certainly hope that Higuain, who was loaned out by Juventus to AC Milan last summer, is the same animal as when they previously worked together at Napoli three seasons ago.
For the last two months, the Italian’s ‘Sarri-ball’ philosophy has looked like a theory in search of some evidence.
Too many sideways passes, not enough end product and Chelsea well out of the title race courtesy of defeats by Tottenham, Wolves and Leicester and a frustrating goalless home draw against struggling Southampton.
Even during many of their recent victories, Chelsea have been laborious and unconvincing.
Eden Hazard has generally being employed as a ‘false nine’ — a role the Belgian dislikes — due to Sarri’s mistrust of Olivier Giroud and Morata, who is set to join Atletico Madrid.
But if you’ve watched Chelsea recently — with so many passes for passes sake — you might have wondered whether Sarri simply dislikes traditional centre forwards altogether.
Not if his one campaign with Higuain, the 2015-16 season with Napoli, is anything to go by.
Higuain was not just a success, he was a raging triumph of historic proportions – netting 36 goals in 35 league matches to equal the all-time Serie A scoring record set 87 years previously.
His Napoli team-mate Dries Mertens, himself no slouch when it comes to filling onion bags, says of Higuain: “He wakes up every morning with goals in his eyes.”
If Higuain can create anything like that kind of impact at Stamford Bridge, he will clearly be the focal point Sarri’s Chelsea have been crying out for.
Sarri arrived in England as the darling of intellectual football watchers.
Here was a coaching superbrain, removed from the ranks of ex-players.
A bloke to make every computer gamer believe they too could become a real-life manager.
His ‘Sarri ball’ system may not have won any trophies in Italy but it was apparently reinventing the wheel.
The new man caused some consternation by shifting N’Golo Kante -possibly the first overseas player to be regarded as a genuine national treasure in England — from his trademark anchor role, in favour of Jorginho.
The theory was that everything went through this master passer — yet despite completing more passes than any other player in the Premier League, Jorginho hasn’t assisted a single goal.
Sarri’s main man is neat and tidy, tick and tock, but how many goals is he involved in? How many matches is he helping to win?
Yet the whole dynamic of a team can change with the inclusion of an effective centre-forward, a focal point for any attack, and Higuain — at least the Higuain of two or three years ago — could certainly be that.
Sarri’s first season at Chelsea hasn’t been disastrous.
It currently hangs in the balance but, crucially, with a feeling that the club want him to succeed.
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And while Abramovich is less visible than ever before, the Russian is still providing funds — Christian Pulisic has been signed for £58million, although he won’t join until the summer, and midfielder
Leandro Paredes is likely to arrive as a replacement for Cesc Fabregas.
While Arsenal stagnate in the transfer market, with little backing for their new manager Unai Emery, Chelsea are the most active of the Premier League’s big six during this window.
Sarri is being supported in a way that Antonio Conte was not last season.
A win at the Emirates on Saturday would virtually end the Gunners’ top-four hopes.
And if Higuain then clicks, Sarri-ball might truly come to life.
THERE may be few more depressing moves in this January window than Fulham signing veteran Ryan Babel — admit it, you’d assumed he’d retired — and presumably replacing homegrown teenager Ryan Sessegnon in Claudio Ranieri’s first team.
Ranieri has been pretty thorough in trashing the reputation for entertaining football, and for promoting youth, which Fulham had gained under his predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic.
WHATEVER you think of Marcelo Bielsa’s weapons-grade spying project, it’s made the swivel-eyed Argentinian even more of a God-like figure with Leeds supporters.
More than any other group of supporters, these lot love a siege mentality — and believing that the world is against their misunderstood genius of a manager is only likely to increase the momentum of the Leeds promotion bandwagon.
THERE wasn’t always enough end product to make him a genuine great but the sight of Moussa Dembele in full flight, ghosting past opponents with impossible grace for such a big man, has been one of the finest sights in the Premier League for eight and half years.
He was a reminder that football is an art form as well as a science.
WITH Huddersfield and Fulham seemingly doomed, while Crystal Palace, Burnley and Southampton have all picked up significantly, it seems tomorrow’s Newcastle United v Cardiff City six-pointer is the biggest single match of the relegation scrap.
Cardiff’s Neil Warnock claimed earlier this season that he had ended his long-standing feud with Toon boss Rafa Benitez.
Let’s see if their truce survives the tension of this one…
This post written by mfleming originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.