With yet another game drifting out of Chelsea’s control, the Belgian’s impact in the final half an hour gave the hosts the impetus they needed to turn the game around.
Michy Batshuayi came off the bench to score twice as Chelsea came from 2-1 down to beat Watford 4-2 yesterday in a much-needed win at Stamford Bridge.
Without a Premier League win since the 23rd September, Antonio Conte’s men were fully aware of the importance of picking up three points, but were forced to do it the hard way by an impressive Watford side.
As he likes to do coming off the bench, Batshuayi once again stole the headlines with a clinical cameo, scoring twice to settle the home crowd nerves, becoming Chelsea’s all-time leading Premier League goal scorer against Watford in the process with 4.
— Breathe Chelsea (@BreatheChels) October 22, 2017
Whilst he often invites criticism when he starts games, off the bench he rarely disappoints, so this week’s article will be rightfully focussed around our super-sub.
The interesting paradox of Chelsea fans’ criticism of Michy Batshuayi is that he does, with regularity, score goals. Important ones too. Whilst unconvincing in his hold-play play and perhaps intelligence on the ball, you can tell that his style in centred around the fact that he knows exactly where the back of the net is, and that’s all he cares about when he takes to the field. Seeing as he’s scored every 60.1 minutes he’s played since joining Chelsea, it’s proving quite an effective ploy so far.
The Belgian is certainly at his best when his role is simple, to come off the bench and win us a game. When he started away at Crystal Palace last week, he looked lost up front on his own, unsure of what his role was. He couldn’t get on the ball, and never made an impact on the game. The fact that he made just 19 touches in his hour at Selhurst Park, as opposed to 15 in just half an hour yesterday, shows just how much he struggled.
It’s easy to see that he doesn’t enjoy the responsibility of starting a game. He revels in the opposite, coming off the bench with a point to prove. Since he’s joined the club, only Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud has scored more Premier League goals as a substitute than Batshuayi’s six, so there’s no doubt that he does the job well.
With important goals such as these ones, as well as crucial ones away at West Brom and Atletico Madrid should leave Conte and Chelsea fans in doubt with regards to his worth of a place in this squad.
He knows his job well now, which can only bode well for the club in the future. Coming on for Alvaro Morata after 60 minutes raised a few eyebrows, mine included, but in hindsight, with Morata on a yellow and starting to lose his cool a bit, Conte rightly turned to a man that he now trusts after rigorous training, to take to the field and deliver the performance his side needs.
What’s even more encouraging about his two goals yesterday was the way he scored them. Whilst his goals are often poacher’s goals from close range, his performance in this game replicated that of a proper top-class striker, the type he promised to be when he signed for the club.
For his first and Chelsea’s equaliser, his run to get in front of Miguel Britos was sublime and timed to perfection. Not to mention the precision of the header that followed. For his second, he demonstrated his abundant striker’s instinct in being at the right place at the right time, which he then capitalised on using all his tenacity at strength. Especially looking at the first goal, it was brilliant to see Batshuayi scoring different types of goals, ones that demonstrate real intelligence under pressure, rather than split-second reactions in front of goal.
Both goals would give fans enough evidence to suggest that Batshuayi is really beginning to grow as a Premier League striker and as an asset to the club.
One thing that can’t go un-mentioned with any report coving Michy Batshuayi is his outspoken confidence off the pitch. Chelsea fans can now expect content from his personal accounts across every social media platform going when he performs, usually drawing comparisons between his impactful actions with those of superhero Batman.
Whilst comical, I’ve never been a huge fan of the 24-year-old’s rather self-indulgent Twitter. He certainly doesn’t lack any self-confidence, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, every time he scores, you do get the feeling that he’s happier about it from a personal point of view, rather than the team’s.
Both his celebrations yesterday involved cupping his hand to his hear, reminding his own fans of critical things they may have said about him in the past.
The fact remains, a lot of his performances do warrant criticism, and when he does perform, his first thought shouldn’t be to embarrass his own set of fans, I’d much rather see him celebrate as a Chelsea player, rather than an individual.
As Chelsea fans will be all too aware, we’re not short of strikers who have struggled at the club over recent years, and their attitudes have been entirely different when they’ve scored goals. Players like Fernando Torres, or even Falcao and Pato, all used to celebrate passionately because of the contribution they’ve made to the team, not to their own reputation.
However, having said all that, Batshuayi’s character is merely a positive symptom of the modern relationship that football has with social media.
He is the type of player that makes fans feel more connected to the players that they idolise, and if generating his own self-confidence and ego off the pitch, helps him to perform on it, then so bit.
The likelihood is that Batshuayi will have another chance to add to his season’s goal tally on Wednesday night as Chelsea play host to Everton in the Carabao cup in what will be the club’s third home game in a row.
No doubt Conte will rotate the squad against Premier League opposition, but with players like Pedro and Willian performing better yesterday, perhaps the depth of squad will start to hold up better, starting with this tough challenge.