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Gonzalo Higuain: Answer to Chelsea’s problems or a waste of money?

Dave Burin | 9 January 2019

Blues closing in on move for Argentine hitman

It’s no surprise to see Chelsea reportedly agreeing a deal for a high-profile striker this month. It seemed only a matter of time, with Alvaro Morata’s first 18 months at the club a major disappointment for Blues fans.

The man primed to replace him is Gonzalo Higuain. A part of Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli side earlier in the decade, he’s a player the Italian seems keen to reunite with.

But would the 31-year-old prove an inspired acquisition or another attacking dud? We investigate…

The Pros: Sarri connection, bouncing back and goalscoring pedigree

While the Argentine spent just one season under Sarri at Napoli, the pairing produced the best campaign of Higuain’s career to date.

He averaged over a goal a game in Serie A, with 36 strikes in 35 outings. And consistency – not gluts – meant the vast majority were crucial goals. Of Napoli’s 25 victories that term, he found the net in all but two.

That’s not to say that Higuain never has poor displays. But – unlike the fragile Morata – he bounces back from them with the minimum of fuss.

Last season’s Champions League clashes with Tottenham Hotspur were a perfect illustration of this. After fluffing a key penalty in the first leg of the pair’s round of 16 game (a 2-2 draw), many players could have crumbled.

However, the Brest-born hitman took the second leg by the scruff of the neck, scoring Juventus’ equaliser on the night before setting up Paulo Dybala’s winner.

Experience is also on his side. To use a well-worn cliché, Higuain knows where the back of the net is. Having hit over 100 goals in both La Liga and Serie A, he’s almost guaranteed to hit double figures in the league.

The Cons: Age, injuries and the ‘bottler’ reputation

At 31-years-old, the current AC Milan loanee is hardly a long-term option. Especially so with his recent injury history. Higuain was sidelined with three unconnected injuries during 2018. None were enormously serious, but together they’re a concern.

Never the quickest player, he might also struggle with the pace of the Premier League.

Serie A’s more languid speed of play has certainly suited the 31-year-old, and the hustle-and-bustle of the Prem could see Higuain struggle to impose himself in games.

There’s also the largely deserved reputation of the experienced hitman as a big-game bottler. The sitter he missed as Argentina lost the 2016 Copa America Final may be the most famous example, but it’s just one of many.

In the longer term, his record in the CL knockouts underlines this issue. Higuain has managed just seven goals in 33 games beyond the group-stage, with last year’s downing of Tottenham the exception to the rule.

This is a move which could easily end in delight or disaster for fans of the Stamford Bridge outfit.

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