Batshuayi can call off Conte’s search for a striker

Brighton 0 - Chelsea 4: Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton at the weekend has quietened the critics who suggested there was a crisis building at Stamford Bridge but it hasn’t ended speculation about their search for a striker after manager Antonio Conte challenged Michy Batshuayi to fill the void – but also left the door open for him to leave.

Batshuayi, the 24-year-old who cost almost €40m from Marseille, has struggled to find his feet in west London but played well as part of a front trio at the Amex which also included man of the match Eden Hazard and Willian.

The interplay between the three was so exquisite at times, particularly for the second goal which was finished superbly by Willian, that it made recent stories that Chelsea are desperately searching for an old-school giant striker such as Andy Carroll, Peter Crouch or Edin Dzeko, seem even stranger.

Conte said: Batshuayi played a really good game — he didn’t score, but he worked well for the team. He did what I asked him to do. To repeat, a No.9 is an important player — I want him to be a point of reference to our team. Today I’m very satisfied with Batshuayi.”

The important word in that sentence of course is ‘today’ because Batshuayi has yet to show he can make a meaningful contribution to Chelsea over a period of time and there have been a stream or rumours linking him with a loan move or even a permanent exit from the Bridge.

Conte, evasive as ever, said: “Batshuayi is a Chelsea player and we are working with him very hard in the same way that we are working with Morata, we are working with Hazard, Willian and Pedro and now with Barkley. For me Michy is a Chelsea player and in my mind there is the will to continue to work with him and to try to improve.”

Meanwhile, Chelsea hope to have defender Andreas Christensen available for their Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Arsenal at the Emirates on Wednesday even though he appeared to leave the pitch with concussion at the Amex, where Hazard scored twice to add to goals from Willian and Victor Moses.

The result moved Chelsea up to third in the table, easing concerns that a recent dip in form (this was their first league win of 2018) could threaten the club’s chances of Champions League football next season.

By contrast, Brighton now know they are in a relegation battle after slipping ever closer to the bottom three. They have, at least, already taken action to solve their goalscoring problems by paying €16m to bring Jurgen Locadia from PSV Eindhoven.

Manager Chris Hughton said: “We haven’t scored a goal against a top six side yet and it’s true we’re finding it difficult to get goals at the moment. We want someone who can stretch teams and he’ll give us that. He’s been in good form this season and we hope he can take that into the Premier League.”

BRIGHTON:

Ryan, Schelotto, Goldson, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner, Gross (Kayal 68), Stephens, Propper, Hemed (Murray 68), March (Izquierdo 83).

Subs not used:

Hunemeier, Baldock, Rosenior, Krul.

CHELSEA:

Caballero, Azpilicueta, Christensen (Luiz 58), Rudiger, Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso (Zappacosta 75), Willian (Musonda 81), Batshuayi, Hazard.

Subs not used:

Barkley, Eduardo, Ampadu, Sterling.

Referee:

Jonathan Moss


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