Michy Batshuayi is having a pretty good run in the Chelsea first team – with Alvaro Morata having missed the last three games – and he showed his worth with a brace versus Newcastle United in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.
His appearance at Stamford Bridge saw him make his fourth start in three weeks and he looked much sharper as a result.
He fired in a double to put himself just two goals behind Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata in Chelsea’s scoring charts this season on 10 strikes.
Chelsea ran out 3-0 winners on the afternoon with Marcos Alonso adding a trademark free-kick in the second half, while Antonio Conte gave a debut to academy starlet Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Many of Batshuayi’s goals have come against weaker teams but Batshuayi has been afforded few chances under Conte since arriving at the club in the summer of 2016.
Sunday’s two-goal performance suggested that perhaps he has been a little harshly treated by his manager.
His finishing ability has never been in question at Chelsea having scored a goal every 99 minutes in a blue shirt. However, it is true that he lacks the presence offered by a Morata or Diego Costa as a target man, while his link up play is often lacking.
Conte likes his striker to be the pivot or focal point of the attack, allowing the likes of Hazard and Pedro to flourish behind the No.9, but Batshuayi has never convinced his manager in this respect.
The 24-year-old hasn’t had the easiest of times adapting at Chelsea after stepping up from Ligue 1 to the Premier League in a £33 million move from Marseille. He didn’t know the language and quickly discovered that his manager didn’t have much trust in his ability.
There’s no doubt Batshuayi is capable of developing into a better player but he needs to be playing games and his time at Chelsea has left him fearing for his World Cup place with Belgium.
Chelsea look set to loan Batshuayi to Sevilla this month providing they find a replacement, with the west Londoners in painstaking talks with Roma for their star striker Edin Dzeko. Conte distanced himself from the decision to loan Batshuayi but his selection choices will have affected the striker’s thoughts, if he leaves by Wednesday’s deadline.
“It the club decides to add another player, I don’t know if Michy wants to stay or go on loan. In this case this is a player decision, not my decision. I am ready to keep working with these players, because I am very happy to work with these players. But I don’t know what will happen in the transfer market.”
Conte has performed miracles at Chelsea, winning the title last season after the club had finished tenth the year before, but he hasn’t been able to get what he wanted out of the young Belgian.
Batshuayi may have worked better in a front two after initially being earmarked by Conte to work in a 4-2-4 system he was trialling when he first joined – but this formation never came to fruition.
Perhaps under a different manager, Batshuayi could have flourished into a star but he will likely have to prove his worth elsewhere from February.