Chelsea: Michy Batshuayi is a super sub whilst being an average starter

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 27: Michy Batshuayi of Chelsea and Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrate victory during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea FC at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on September 27, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 27: Michy Batshuayi of Chelsea and Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrate victory during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea FC at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on September 27, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) /

Michy Batshuayi is many things: a scorer of important goals, Twitter hero, protector of Gotham City, and a bang-average starter. That is not a bad thing, as he does wonders for Chelsea late in games.

This season Michy Batshuayi has managed seven goals in 373 minutes of Chelsea football. That is a goal every 53 minutes, almost twice as good Alvaro Morata’s rate of 104 minutes per goal.

Despite all his goals, Batshuayi’s stats flatter to deceive when he starts matches. The Belgian international seems to lack the drive that is required when playing as a lone striker. When Batshuayi started for Chelsea this season in the Premier League the club lost both times, struggling to create chances.

Compare this with his appearances as a sub in the Premier League. Those resulted in three wins from four appearances, although admittedly only three goals (one own goal – it still counts), two of which were against Watford.

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Even so his Premier League performances have been far greater when subbed on than starting. He has had no problem scoring against weaker teams in other competitions, where Batshuayi has scored four goals against Qarabag FK (one) and Nottingham Forest (three).

This season Chelsea have not lost a match when Batshuayi has scored. These include his key winning goal against Atletico Madrid; the equaliser and capper against Watford; and even the own goal against Tottenham to make the London derby extra exciting.

OppositionStarted / SubbedScoredResultCompetition
BurnleyStarted0L, 3-2Premier League
TottenhamSubbed on 79'1, OGW, 2-1Premier League
EvertonSubbed on 78'0W, 2-0Premier League
Leicester CityDid not play0W, 2-1Premier League
QarabagStarted1W, 6-0Champions League
ArsenalDid not play0D, 0-0Premier League
Nottingham ForestStarted3W, 5-1Carabao Cup
Stoke CityDid not play0W, 4-0Premier League
Atletico MadridSubbed on 82'1W, 2-1Champions League
Manchester CitySubbed on 73'0L, 1-0Premier League
Crystal PalaceStarted0Lost, 2-1Premier League
AS RomaDid not play0D, 3-3Champions League
WatfordSubbed on 61'2W, 4-2Premier League

Batshuayi has not managed a goal in the Premier League when he has started. He generally comes off before the 60th minute for Alvaro Morata, who has gone on to score or at least create more chances after replacing the Belgian. In fact, this season Morata created six chances and notched two assists in eight games, compared to Batshuayi not creating any in six.

The Twitter legend that is Batshuayi has, however, been more successful in both his aerial duels (a little surprising considering Morata’s brilliance with his head) and his take-on’s per 90. His 66% success rate in take-on’s far exceeds Morata’s 42%, which is rather surprising based on a purely visual comparison the two.

Batshuayi is a great finisher. He is made for the last 20 or 30 minutes of the game. He loves a late winner and a tired defence. Unfortunately, though, he is not suitable to start. He often finds himself isolated, lost amongst the defence.

During his sub appearances Batshuayi will make runs, stretch the defence, be available for the pass and find space in the box, creating a finish from pure will if nothing else. When he starts however, he does not make the runs required to make space for his team mates. He shoots when he should pass, and frustrates his teammates by running into a black hole.

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Often fans have been frustrated by his lack of movement willingness to be a team player, and his lack of desire to drag defenders around. Without the runs in behind and movement forcing defenders to follow him and lose their defensive shape, the rest of Chelsea’s attack cannot find open space to run into unmarked.

A system with a sole striker requires that striker to be proactive and hard working off the ball. Diego Costa was a brilliant lone striker because of his ability to make runs, occupy defenders (rightly or wrongly) and work hard for the team. Costa pressured the opposition into making mistakes while being clinical in front of goal, often feeding off scraps.

Morata provides runs, link-up play with his team mates, and brilliant finishing. He is not as rough-edged as his predecessor, but he provides technique and class on the pitch.

Chelsea’s current crop of strikers are an odd bunch. One is technical hold up man, gifted on the ball. The other is a clinical finisher, physical in the last 30 minutes. Both are good in the air, both can finish, and in an ideal world they fit the mould for a brilliant upfront partnership. One hold-up man setting up goals and making runs, alongside a finisher only to happy to get in the box and find space.

Instead, Batshuayi seems too greedy, possibly lacking the awareness to realise using your teammates is more likely to result in a goal than going alone. Meanwhile, his Spanish counterpart just goes out of the game sometimes for unknown reasons, and that does not quite scare defenders like a certain ex-Madrid striker did.

Should the two learn to play together, a partnership in the mould of a lightweight Didier Drogba and Nikolas Anelka could emerge. Batshuayi needs to learn to pass and Morata needs to stay interested.

Batshuayi isn’t a starter, but he could be. What holds him back from scoring when he starts is down to him. He knows how to run, and he can improve his awareness and decision making. He can make himself a starter with hard work, learning to relax in the big games and choosing the team option rather than going for glory.

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Chelsea want Michy Batshuayi to succeed. The fans want him to succeed and, if his tweets are anything to go by, he wants it for himself. For his FIFA in-form card if nothing else,  the Batsman can do it.