The West London club are hoping the veteran striker is the panacea to cure all ills, but will he emulate the long list of guaranteed goal scorers who flattered to deceive at the Blues?
It took a while longer than expected, but it’s finally happened – Chelsea have signed Gonzalo Higuain on loan until the end of the season.
The Argentine is a short-term solution to a very pressing problem for the London club, who have impressed with their build-up play at times this season but struggled for goals of late.
Alvaro Morata scored a respectable 16 goals in 47 Premier League appearances, but his legacy is almost certainly going to be cemented as a flop after heading for Madrid earlier this week to join Diego Simeone’s Atleti.
Olivier Giroud, signed last January as a hold-up player to bring Eden Hazard and the club’s other wide attackers into play, was never going to be their 20-goals-a-season guy, but neither has he been able to plug the gaps when they needed someone to do so.
Michy Batshuayi, another poor signing the club has made in recent history, and Tammy Abraham, their 21-year-old home-grown striker, are both out on loan and neither are considered to be the answer to their scoring woes.
And that’s why Maurizio Sarri has turned to a very familiar cherubic face, one he worked with at Napoli with terrific results; Higuain scored 36 goals in the 2015/16 Serie A season, equaling the record for most league goals in a single campaign.
Naturally the Italian manager believes he is “one of the best strikers” he has worked with in his career, and the hope is that that familiarity will be the key to opening the stubborn levee keeping the goals from flowing freely at Stamford Bridge.
The question is: will it work?
The Argentine forward is perhaps as sure a bet for goals as you will get, finding the net with relative ease where ever he has gone, be it Real Madrid, Napoli, Juventus, or AC Milan.
The big question mark is over his age; Higuain turned 31 in December, and one can only presume he is only going to regress in quality the further removed we are from that marvellous campaign three years ago.
Gratefully there’s no magic clock that deems you worthless and beyond use once it ticks past that big three zero. The likes of Esteban Cambiasso and Fernando Hierro arrived at Leicester City and Bolton Wanderers when their careers at the top of the game were deemed to be over. The latter had even gone to the retirement home that is Saudi football, but still made a success of his time in England.
However, those players were defensive midfielders, a position that can lend itself to players who age gracefully, but it is worth asking the question of more attack-minded players.
Very few strikers come to the Premier League in the autumn of their career and deliver mountains of goals. Henrik Larsson impressed when he finally made a cameo, but the most recent and obvious exception to the rule has to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who terrorised defences during his short time at Manchester United.
The comparison with Ibra is apt, as the Swede was often criticised for scoring the majority of his goals at dominant sides, never winning the Champions League, and not doing it in a supposedly more competitive league such as the English top flight. Similar digs have been thrown in Higuain’s direction, and he will have a hell of a job on his hands to emulate him.
Much like Zlatan at United, Higi is arriving at a team starved for goals and fighting for a place in the top four. Fortunately for him he arguably has better players around him at Chelsea than his counterpart, and he will be depending on the likes of Jorginho, Pedro, Willian, et al for the kind of service that will send them to goal heaven.
Another concern is Higuain’s lack of pace in such an energetic league, but ironically that could be seen as a positive; as he’s never had pace to begin with, he doesn’t depend on it. He is a proper centre forward in every sense.
Chelsea fans will be cautiously optimistic about Higuain’s arrival, hopeful he will guide them to glory, but mindful of the fact they have seen his kind come and fail before. Veteran strikers such as Hernan Crespo, Andriy Shevchenko, and Falcao all came with the promise of making an impact in the so-called Best League In The World, yet wilted to a disappointingly disastrous degree.