F365 early winner: Michy Batshuayi

Date published: Sunday 22nd October 2017 12:50

After consecutive Premier League defeats, Chelsea badly needed the victory against Watford and none of their individuals required a positive contribution quite so much as Michy Batshuayi.

The Belgium striker came off the bench with his side 2-1 down with half an hour to go before scoring twice to turn the game around and provoke Antonio Conte into a spot of crowd surfing.

A week ago, Batshuayi drove his manager wild in a very different sense. With Alvaro Morata missing, the 24-year-old has handed only his third start since moving to Stamford Bridge from Marseille last year for £33million and his performance demonstrated why Conte has been so reluctant to place much trust in the centre-forward.

Against a side previously goalless and pointless, Batshuayi blew his big chance to impress. He certainly was not the only individual to disappoint his manager at Selhurst Park but the former Marseille forward had little credit in the bank to bail himself out.

In 57 minutes against Palace, Batshuayi failed to register an attempt on goal; created no opportunities for a team-mate; managed only 19 touches and attempted only two forward passes, only one of which was in the Palace half and neither found a Chelsea shirt.

The Belgian’s frustration at being substituted for Pedro before the hour mark last week was obvious but he could have no complaints. If anything, he was lucky to get an opportunity against Watford. Had Conte been able to turn to anyone else, he probably would have.

Today, though, Batshuayi competed and his industry ensured his cameo outshone Morata in the starring role. Against Watford, shackled by Christian Kabasele, the Spaniard was almost as quiet as Batshuayi was at Palace, but the big-money summer signing has little to prove to Conte.

With more talk in the press over recent days of Chelsea’s supposed striking targets in the summer, Batshuayi’s need for goals was almost as great as his team’s when he was dispatched from the bench. His first, a clever header following an even smarter run across Kabasele and Miguel Britos, was a timely reminder of Batshuayi’s awareness and intelligence, while the second, a gift though it was to receive possession, demonstrated impressive strength to hold off the Watford defender before a cool finish.

Will it be enough to earn Batshuayi enough a start at Bournemouth next week? Probably not, But before then, he is likely to get the opportunity to strengthen his case for more involvement when Everton arrive at Stamford Bridge in the EFL Cup on Wednesday.

Batshuayi is never likely to be Chelsea’s starting striker, not least while they rely on a pivot striker around which Eden Hazard and Pedro can wreak havoc. His opportunities will probably always be limited and perhaps he was fighting a lost cause before Watford arrived on Saturday. But at least his brace may have earned him a stay of execution in Conte’s mind upon which he has to prove himself again when his next opportunities come.

Ian Watson

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