?By any standards, let alone his own, Maurizio Sarri has got his Chelsea side up and running with his eclectic style ahead of schedule. The Blues have been playing some simultaneously deft and rip-roaring football, and the Italian has unlocked Eden Hazard in a way even the most ardent Fred-Pogba pushers could barely dream of.
There had been initial concerns about the defence, but an embattled performance from the rearguard – particularly David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger – against Liverpool showed the progress in this area of the pitch.
In essence, there is little to worry about at Stamford Bridge. All is well. What’s that? Strikers? What’s the issue? One goal in 16 appearances between them. Huh. But Eden Haz- Can’t feasibly keep it up? Oh. I see.
So… what can they do? Who can take the mantle? *Napoli announcer voice* GONZALO *echoed crowd response* HIGUAIN.
This is ?Gonzalo Higuain’s Chelsea prophecy.
It’s January 1st 2019. A new year, true, but the same Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata. The former is still a World Cup winning, world class flicking facilitator, and has a magnificent 15 assists to his name – but no goal. Not one.
The latter threatened at one point, briefly, against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup, to score – but scuffed his shot, fell over and stayed there for 2 minutes and nine seconds in a bizarre tantrum-come-tribute to the ridiculous number on the back of his shirt.
Chelsea are second in the Premier League – good. But ?Eden Hazard has had to reinforce his shoulders with titanium in order to accommodate the goal-laden backpack he’s been carrying – bad.
No other player has scored in the league since Pedro back in November against Tottenham – he does love a goal against Spurs – and in light of the Belgian’s enforced surgical absence, the board are panicking.
It’s the first transfer meeting of the window, and, chaired by Marina Granovskaia herself, there’s a sense of panick in the air normally attributed to White House defence counsels. Suddenly, Maurizio Sarri appears in the room, with a loud bang and a wheezing cough, shrouded in a cloud of billowing Marlboro Red smoke. Yet to fully master English, and keen to keep it as dramatic as possible, he simply declares: “Get me Gonzalo.”
When the board proffer their protestations, explaining that they repeatedly told him in the summer why this wasn’t viable – age, money, speed – he interjects again: “Get. Me. Gonzalo.” As he says this he shows them footage of the Argentine’s goal against Atalanta followed by every one of Morata’s misplaced touches and a screenshot of Giroud’s goal tally soundtracked by crickets.
He takes one more drag on the minuscule remains of his cigarette, and stubs it onto the prospective Nike commercial posters of Morata that are sheepishly placed in the middle of the table, before disappearing in the same fashion he arrived.
The board, stunned into a collective silence, start to share worried glances with one another. Finally, Marina pipes up: “So. Higuain, then. How much?”
A particularly feeble executive, still trembling, responds: “Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes.”
And so they get him, in an extremely agreeable deal that includes a £10m loan fee to Milan, an obligation to pay Juventus the £32.04m fee in the summer, and the fuel expenses for Alvaro Morata’s accommodating journey back to Italy. At which point, both sides can fight over who has to put him on their books.
In any case, the recently turned 31-year-old is in London by the 3rd, and raring to go. Armed with a hoard of Mate tea, and a trunk of the strange contraptions you drink them in, Gonzalo is finally ready to take on the ?Premier League.
His first training session is illuminating. Sarri has numerous problems trying to maintain his squad’s composure, as they attempt to get to grips with a striker actually hitting the back of the net. It’s disorientating at first, but in a good way.
His first game comes on the 12th of January against Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United (after Benitez went AWOL, Mike Ashley begged Pards to take up the remaining year and a half of his contract – he accepted).
The French-born forward shows the completeness of his game right from the off, linking up the play expertly, but also providing a quality that hasn’t been since Diego Costa in a Chelsea number nine – the ability to create a goal of his own accord.
He fashions several chances from nothing situations, before eventually rifling it into the net from 18 yards out following a tangled goal-mouth frenzy, in a way that only a seasoned scorer can.
This goal comes to epitomise his ?Chelsea career – right place, right time, and an ingenuity to find the net from improbable situations. Sure, he misses some golden opportunities along the way, most of them admittedly in big games. But he also coaxes a squad who had previously been deeply disheartened by their front-line profligacy, back to life – obviously with the help of the copious amounts of South American caffeine he imbues them with.
This re-invigoration is enough to inspire Maurizio Sarri’s side to an unlikely Premier League title. Of course, there were external factors in this triumph. Manchester City were not helped by Pep Guardiola putting his back out after a particularly impassioned David Brent-ian dance, which prohibited him from the touchline from February onwards. They were lost without him.
As for Liverpool, well I hate to say it, but they spiralled fairly rapidly following Jurgen Klopp’s stunning move to ?Real Madrid in March. Florentino Perez dismissed Julen Lopetegui ahead of a quarter final clash with the Reds, installing the German two days before the encounter. Alas, even Brendan Rodgers couldn’t rustle up a game-plan in time to combat Klopp’s Galacticos – though he did have the bright idea to pastiche himself and rest James Milner at the Bernabeu.
In any case, the Blues are English champions once again. All thanks to Gonzalo Higuain and his mate tea. Who would’ve thought, eh?
Well, Maurizio Sarri, back in August. But oh well, lesson learned.