Things started so well for Alvaro Morata.
He scored six goals in his first six Premier League matches, including a hat-trick against Stoke City. He was knocking them in with his head, which was greatly appreciated after hardly ever seeing that from Diego Costa. He was quick, deft and he did the one thing all Chelsea center-forwards must do, he combined well with Eden Hazard.
He must have been feeling good about his decision to leave the bench at Real Madrid for the starter’s job at Chelsea.
Since then, things have dropped off. Four league goals since October. Some difficulty adjusting to the physicality of the Premier League. Three weeks missed with a nagging back injury that’s been bothering him since at least December. Four yellow cards in his last six matches in all competitions. In danger of getting tagged by refs as a diver and a complainer.
Incredible stat on @TheTotallyShow - since October Morata has had 9 yellow cards and 8 goals+assists— AA (@Ayushxa) February 26, 2018
The killer blow, a valid goal that the linesman wrongly called offside on Sunday. A goal that would have staved-off the latest CRISIS for Chelsea. A goal that could have revitalized his game, because strikers often need just that one score to get their confidence back.
You are offside if a body part with which you can legally score is offside. Morata's left arm is the only part of his body closer to De Gea's goal than Lindelof's right boot. United profit from dodgy decision at Old Trafford #932 of the season. pic.twitter.com/CSgcWjoDY8— Don Kopleone (@donkopleone) February 25, 2018
You know that saying, people love to kick you when you’re down? Chelsea’s £57-million-man might be pondering the truthiness of that right about now. Because he’s getting it from all sides this week.
In mid-February Morata gave an interview on Spanish TV explaining why he left Real Madrid.
“I played lots of games but always with the second choice side. I never asked to be a regular starter, Madrid is another planet. But I didn’t play in any of the Champions League knock-out games, or against Barcelona, Atlético, Sevilla and Valencia.”
-Alvaro Morata; source: Movistar+ via AS
Pretty innocuous stuff. Completely self-evident to anyone who followed his career. Yet on Sunday, a full fourteen days later, Zinedine Zidane decided it was time to respond.
“For me there are no small games. Each one is different, and of course everyone wants to play against PSG before other league teams, but we can’t think about that.
“His role was fundamental in the team, Morata participated a lot and very well in what we won last year.”
-Zinedine Zidane; source: Calciomercato
OK, small potatoes, right?
Unfortunately for Morata, Monday was also the day that The Telegraph’s Matt Law also decided to put the metaphorical boot in. He wrote a piece (hidden behind a paywall, but you can read the whole thing in the Irish newspaper Independent) detailing our Spanish striker’s woes and slipped a dagger in: that the dressing room sees Morata as a “bit of a” complainer and perhaps not up to the mental challenges of the Premier League.
To steal a line from noted Chelsea fan William Shakespeare (the man does love a bit of drama), now is the winter of Alvaro Morata’s discontent.
And yet, all it will probably take for the sun to shine again, for all the negativity to go away, is one simple but oh-so-difficult thing — score a goal. It should have happened on Sunday, twice even. Denied once by the combination of crossbar and his own Torresian finish, if the assistant referee had done his job correctly, Matt Law’s alarm bells still would have looked badly mistimed, and all in Chelsea’s world would have been, if not exactly fine, then certainly manageable.
With ten games left there’s time for both Alvaro Morata personally and for Chelsea as a team to turn things around. And it all starts Sunday at the City of Manchester stadium.