Michy Batshuayi - How will Chelsea's £33million Belgian striker fit into Conte's new 2016/2017 Blues?
After Germany beat Antonio Conte’s Italy – with their strikers displaying some dubious penalty skills – his brand new club (Chelsea) wasted no time in announcing his first major signing: 22yr-old Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi. Despite Belgium’s underwhelming performances at major tournaments, it’s no secret that they’ve been producing some of the fines player of this generation. Chelsea have already seen several of Marc Wilmots’ best players pass through their first team, with Lukaku & De Bruyne spending several years there, whilst Eden Hazard and Courtois have become the faces of Batshuayi’s brand new team. Despite him playing second-fiddle to Lukaku on the international stage, this could be his chance to suceed where his international teammate failed. What plans will incoming Antonio Conte have for him?
In a 3-5-2 formation, Michy Batshuayi will play as the perfect foil for the physical, rugged style of the powerful Diego Costa. Whereas the Brazilan-born Spaniard is like a battering ram (or a dog, maybe?) , taking on defenders and causing havoc, Batshuayi’s direct running and silky dribbling will be perfect for taking on weary, angry defenders. Diego Costa will be expected to take his central defenders on even more (if he can do that without getting arrested) so that the young Belgian can steal into the space opened up and wait for tap-ins. With a quick, accurate first touch and a far less abrasive style than his future strike partner, defenders will often tend to let him slip off their radar. Moreover, he’s got a decent passing range and can combine quite well with others; this will be key to his combinations with Diego Costa, who’s passing can often let him down but who has no problems finishing. They’re both fast and good headers of the ball, so their other skill-sets should complement each other very well.
This formation will probably bring the best out of the young Belgian striker. With the tricky Eden Hazard on one wing and the hard-working Willian on the other, Diego Costa and Michy Batshuayi will find themselves with lots of space in the middle. To counter that, teams will ask their midfielders to drop deeper and crowd them out – for Costa, the more the merrier. Batshuayi is a very good dribbler too, and with more players in the middle, he could successfully take 2 or 3 players out of the game as he gets more confident. His speed and heading will become very necessary, as the two on the wing will be required to whip in crosses for him to head in. Should he find too much opposition, he’ll have to play the ball back to his midfielders, which will encourage the widemen to pull the play out to the flanks. Chelsea have faced many problems playing wide, so hopefully this will solve at least some of them. With Pedro’s speed in there as well, this will be a front four with everything – pace, dribbles, headers and power.
One alternative that the flexible Antonio Conte has displayed (both with Italy & Juventus) is the 3-4-3 formation. For Batshuayi, this may mean some time on the bench, but when he does play, he’ll be the main man – an important learning curve for the 22yr-old. In this formation, he’ll be required to play with his back to goal (which he’s shown some difficulties in) but his passing and dribbling will encourage Hazard and Willian to give him the ball more and try to play it in front of him. He isn’t the most physical of forwards, but he can get some tips from Tottenham’s service to Harry Kane, where the build-up play is designed for him to run into the box and shoot. He has very good one-touch football, and he’ll have to exhibit it’s full array if he will succeed in this system.