What does Morata's performance against Stoke say about the importance of building confidence?
Towards the end of last week, Antonio Conte described Alvaro Morata as a 'polite' guy. The description was in response to a question about the former Real Madrid man replacing Diego Costa as Chelsea's main striker, and what differences the manager sees between his old soldier and the new man.
Conte, when asked to explain what he meant by 'polite,' said Morata is a really good guy, the type a father would love his daughter to marry.
Right after the flowery description, Morata repaid his manager's compliments with a hat-trick in Chelsea's league tie at Stoke on Saturday. It was his first Chelsea hat-trick and it took him to six league goals - sharing the top spot with Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero.
Was it just a coincidence that Morata's first hat trick came immediately after Conte's rosy description?
There is no doubt about Morata's quality as a striker, but looking at where he has come from, it is easy to see why he may be having some confidence problems.
Despite spending most of his senior years shuffling between heavyweights - that is what Real Madrid and Juventus are - Morata has been used in bit-parts throughout his time in these clubs. The focus was never on him; always in the shadow of other big players.
When he almost nailed down a place at The Old Lady, Real insisted on bringing him back to The Bernabeu to deputize Karim Benzema. So, here is a player whose potential is evidenced by the teams that want to keep him and the fees that facilitate his movement, but never really gets the chance to fulfil that potential. Definitely, his ego was going to take a bruise.
Then comes Chelsea and Conte, who want to bring him in to replace a beast of a striker; a man who unsettled pretty much every defence in the intense Premier League. Chelsea's belief in the man is underlined by the £70 million fee they are willing to fork out.
There was always the possibility of the huge expectation weighing him down, but the manager's repeated expression of confidence is surely a major factor that is keeping the striker grounded.
He must have descended on The Bet365 stadium with Conte's words ringing in his mind- probably even the image of the Italian's daughter. Okay, maybe not, considering he just got hitched earlier this summer.
But, the confidence showed in him was definitely helpful as he went about dismantling a side that has been described as a tough nut; one that has already made the going difficult for the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United this season.
The end result: An outstanding performance, a big Blues' win and Morata's first hat-trick for the defending champions.
Conte has challenged him to push along the same vein if he wants to join the league of elite strikers.
The modern game is overflowing with talent; what with the established scouting networks worldwide and the ever-improving training methods. As such, the little extra bits of man-management will often make the difference in how better than his peers a talented player can perform.
We are past the era of warrior-teams. In the modern game, players are more sensational and performance is directly related to the feel-good factor. Well, it always was, but players in the Roy Keane era were better suited to come out and perform amid a personal crisis.
Conte's comments on Morata before the weekend, and the player's subsequent response, are just insights into the modern era player's man management needs, for anyone who may have forgotten. Confidence is everything, and building it is unbelievably important.