January 20, 2018 / 6:34 PM / 4 months ago

Batshuayi gives Conte food for thought over striker options

(Reuters) - Chelsea rediscovered their goalscoring touch against Brighton on Saturday, with Michy Batshuayi’s performance giving manager Antonio Conte plenty to think about as he plans his January transfer business.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion vs Chelsea - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - January 20, 2018 Chelsea's Michy Batshuayi in action REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

In the absence of suspended striker Alvaro Morata, Chelsea cruised to a 4-0 victory at Brighton with Eden Hazard scoring twice.

According to British media reports, Conte will bring in at least one new striker before the transfer window closes, with further reports saying Batshuayi could leave on loan and La Liga side Sevilla touted as potential suitors.

Yet after filling in for Morata admirably as Chelsea thrashed Brighton, Conte could well change his plans, and give Belgium international Batshuayi a more prominent role.

Chelsea have struggled in front of goal of late, scoring just once in four games in all competitions going into the Brighton trip, with Morata especially looking out of sorts.

After six goals in his first six Premier League games, the Spaniard has scored only four in his last 14, since picking up an injury against Manchester City in late September.

Batshuayi, who has only scored two Premier League goals this season, offered a different dimension to target-man Morata against Brighton, and acted as the attacking pivot as Chelsea put in one of their best performances of the season.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion vs Chelsea - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - January 20, 2018 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates after the match REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

“The combination between Michy, Willian and me and the midfield was brilliant, we need more like this week after week,” two-goal Hazard said after the win at the Amex Stadium.

Chelsea’s second goal was especially pleasing on the eye. Batshuayi’s deft flick set Willian away for the strike, but the movement of the front three was just too much for Brighton to handle.

“I am pleased for him (Batshuayi),” Conte said. “He is a young striker and it is normal for him to struggle a bit in this league, but at the same time I think he is progressing very well.”

The question is now whether Batshuayi has worked his way back into Conte’s plans. As Morata’s goals dried up, so did Chelsea’s, and it was clear a change of approach was needed.

Batshuayi provided that different option to the more direct approach Morata favours.

While Conte may still sign a striker in this transfer window, bringing others into play and getting the best out of Hazard and Willian could have ensured Batshuayi’s Chelsea career is given a new lease of life.

Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Toby Davis

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