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‘Maybe Alvaro needs more space’, laments Sarri after another Morata no-show

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Olivier Giroud helps save the day once again

Chelsea FC v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Álvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud both touched the ball 16 times against Bournemouth. They both won 3 aerial duels (as defined by Opta). And they both took at least 1 shot. But Giroud did all that in exactly half the time as Morata, 30 vs. 60 minutes, while adding four (4!) fouls (vs. 1 for Morata) and contributing with a clearance on the defensive end, too. And of course Giroud got the assist on Chelsea’s opening goal — he made two passes that led to shots vs. zero for Morata.

Last week, in just 26 minutes, Giroud averaged a touch every 2 minutes vs. Morata at every 3.2, won 3 aerial duels again (vs. 0 for Morata), added 1 foul (vs. 0 for Morata), and 2 more passes before shots (vs. 0 for Morata). He didn’t score and he didn’t create any goals directly, but his presence made a game-changing difference simply by making the defenders feel his presence. It’s a trick that Didier Drogba and Diego Costa both did very well, in addition to all their goals.

The goals are missing for Giroud, just as they were missing during very similar performances for France in the summer, but just as in that ultimately successful World Cup-winning campaign for Les Bleus, Giroud’s making a difference for Chelsea whenever he’s on the pitch. Goal aside against Arsenal and a few moments against Huddersfield in the first match, the same can’t be said about Morata.

It’s a familiar narrative, certainly, and one that Sarri seems to be admitting, confirming, accepting as well.

“It depends upon the situation on the pitch (who the “right” striker should be). At the moment, we crossed three, four, five times in three minutes, so I thought Giroud, in that moment, was better.

”Only for this. It depends upon the situation. Alvaro is improving. Maybe Alvaro needs more space, but I am lucky because, in this situation, Giroud is very useful.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London

That’s a nice and possibly quite diplomatic assessment of the situation. Maybe Morata needs space. How much space is there on the bench? Maybe he just needs fewer minutes. It’s already trending that way: 90 → 75 → 65 → 60 for Morata; 0 → 16 → 25 → 30 for Giroud.

Maybe Giroud just needs to start, especially against teams that are expected to pack it in and defend deep. In fairness, Sarri probably expected neither Newcastle nor Bournemouth to do that, and he changed things early enough to make a difference, but maybe we can avoid all that from the start next time? After the break, Chelsea will welcome in Cardiff City. Spoiler alert: Neil Warnock will not have them play expansive, proactive football.

Morata may or may not “come good” in the end, but with twice weekly games coming up, we need to start picking the right spots for his minutes and deploy the much more tenacious, active, forceful Giroud otherwise.