By 90Min
August 02, 2018

With just eight days to go until transfer deadline day, speculation continues to swirl around Chelsea's prospective squad for the start of the 2018/19 season. While it's undoubtedly frustrating for the fans and club alike, it does add an intoxicating element of conjecture to the proceedings.

With the starting XI still far from nailed on, it allows us to postulate and romanticise on the club's potential. As recently as a day ago, there was one name that continued to be murmured from the depths of the murky confines that those "in the know" merchants of rumour dwell - (*Napoli Announcer voice*) Gonzalo (*Reverberating Crowd Response voice*) Higuain.

Unfortunately, that ship has seemingly set sail, with Milan pipping them to the post on the Argentinian striker, as well as Juventus' highly rated centre back Mattia Caldara (with Daniele Rugani consequentially off the table) as part of a deal to send Leonardo Bonucci back the other way.

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I'll admit, before this news, I was ready to wax lyrical on the merits of a hypothetical attacking partnership between Eden Hazard and Gonzalo, and his potential to replicate the relationship he had with Paulo Dybala.

With Higuain operating as an out and out number nine, and Hazard fulfilling the role that Insigne played within Sarri's system at Napoli - drifting inwards as a second striker, with Marcos Alonso bombing forward and Pedro/Willian/"Other" staying wide on the right - a significantly potent strike force could've been formed. 

But, after some reflection, missing out on the 30-year-old could be a blessing in disguise. Though they evidently won't be signing a top class striker - unless Robert Lewandowski feels Munich is just too much to bare for another season, and the draw of the Europe League too enticing - the club who have been linked most heavily with Morata have now got their alternative. That effectively means that Chelsea will most likely stick it out with their record signing for another season. 

The stalling of Eden Hazard's presupposed move to Real Madrid, coupled with the suggested immanency of N'Golo Kanté's contract upgrade (which would make him the highest earner at Cobham) casts a rainbow over a previously gloomy Stamford Bridge.

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The same newfound sunny disposition could also be attributed to Alvaro Morata himself, who has looked a hungrier, more commanding player in pre-season under Maurizio Sarri. On too many occasions under Antonio Conte last season the Spaniard allowed his frustration to get the better of him, often leading to prolonged sulks or petulant fouls/behaviour.

However, with the only man who's frustration surpassed Morata's at Stamford Bridge last season now departed - particularly as a large part of this wrath was aimed at the striker - the presence of his replacement seems to have reinvigorated the 25-year-old. 

His work against Inter on Saturday would have illustrated this to the incumbent manager. His all round effort, for a pre-season clash, was extremely praiseworthy, as was his hand in Chelsea's only score of the day. After being alert enough to gather a loose touch following a poorly executed defensive throw-in, the striker skipped past new boy Stefan De Vrij, before Antonio Candreva came in to snuff out the danger.

However, instead of giving up the ghost, Morata battled all the way to the touchline, and eventually managed to nick his boot in ahead of the Dutchman's shielding body, and drag it back into play with millimetres to spare. Opening his body up to his teammates in the box, he paused momentarily, feigning interest in a pass, before cutting back towards the goal with lightning precision.

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With both covering defenders sufficiently thrown, he was able to work a shot on goal, which was too powerful for Handanovic to handle, and the resulting deflection was dispatched into the net by Pedro. 

Sure, in the grand scheme of things it may have been a largely irrelevant moment in an ostensibly meaningless game, but that's precisely the point. It didn't matter, and yet it evidently did to Alvaro, more than anyone else in that spell of play. To be fair, you'd expect it to, considering his resumé in 2018 - register just three goals, be usurped by Olivier Giroud and then get snubbed by your country for the World Cup are the highlights.

But his sharpness should be applauded nonetheless, and as alluded to, opens up the possibility of a frightening partnership with Eden Hazard, should the Belgian remain a Blue. Yes, Morata doesn't yet pertain the finishing ability of Higuain. That's undeniable. But he does possess plenty of footballing acumen and intelligence, far more than he showed last season, with his struggle to acclimate to the English style clouding this fact. 

What Sarri will miss in consummate finishing he will make up for in creative intricacy. Hazard, in his role as probably the greatest team minded/gelling left winger in world football, is obviously an upgrade on Lorenzo Insigne. And what Morata lacks in composure, he makes up for in sheer mobility. 

While the 59-year-old utilised the Argentine admirably during 2015/16 - which his 38 goals attest to - it wasn't until he actually left that Napoli played to their full potential. Part of this was down to increased Sarrismo exposure, but there's no doubt the tactician revelled in the subsequent speed and versatility he had in lieu up front. 

With Morata spearheading the front three, the Italian effectively has a hybrid of the two. With Hazard, he already has an expert at interplay, and so his main concern will be creating maximum space for him, and then increasing Hazard's aptitude for finishing them off. 

Once both players are fully attuned to the system, alongside Sarri's preferred right winger, it could prove as fruitful a methodology as it was in Italy - and if that's the case, by proxy probably the most dangerous in England.

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