It was the first question fired at Antonio Conte when he sat down for his Friday pre-match press conference.
“Morata’s been on the bench for the last three, he’s not scored in 2018.
“It’s gone wrong for him, hasn’t it?”
Media trolling? Not really. It has gone wrong for him. The £57m-man hadn’t scored since Boxing Day, was picking up yellow cards faster than starts and generally cut a disconsolate figure, perhaps one in need of a sports psychologist.
So anyway, back to the Friday press conference. The cameras are rolling. The lights are on. The coach is on the spot. And how did Conte answer?
“Maybe he could score on Sunday.”
You think maybe he knows something?
In the 42nd minute Morata took a perfect ball from Willian in deep midfield, ran for goal with the only keeper to beat and, with his shattered confidence and nerves put to the ultimate test, calmly placed it over Schmeichel’s arm and into the back of the net.
His reaction was more relief than delight.
In truth, much as Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire tried to bully him out of the match — and they tried very hard indeed, because that’s now the book on Morata — the Chelsea striker came out on top. Not only did he score, it wasn’t him who saw yellow, it was Maguire.
So what now? Back to psychology again.
“As you know it is very important for a striker to score.”
Yes, goals are important. But Conte does his best to ease the pressure by de-emphasizing them. You might have noticed that every time Antonio Conte talks about Morata, he’s always careful to emphasize the striker’s overall game, his heart, his commitment, his work ethic. He did it on Friday. He did it again on Sunday.
“I think for Alvaro it was very important to score, but at the same time I am very pleased for his performance because he played a good game, he showed great character, he showed to be strong.”
But however much his manager might try to swaddle him, at the end of the day it really is all about the goals for a #9. And as Conte himself said, maybe a revitalized Morata has once again found his scoring touch and will ride to the rescue for Chelsea at a time when every match is do-or-die.
“I think this goal, it will be very important for the future, for us.”
Let us hope so. The urgency is real. The threat of missing Europe hangs over the club.
Morata wasn’t selected for Spain’s squad. He’ll have his time to himself and for Chelsea during the break. He’s going into it feeling good.
With a positive attitude and a goal under his belt, maybe now is the hour for a man named Morata. Just in the nick of time.