The newest recruit stepped out in the famous blue shirt for the first time and although he wasn’t at his best, there were still one or two good signs
A huge cheer greeted Gonzalo Higuain as his name was read out over the club’s tannoy on Sunday but in truth, he was quiet on his debut at Stamford Bridge against Sheffield Wednesday.
However, there were promising signs that the Argentine will fit into Maurizio Sarri’s system well, as he spent his 82 minutes on the pitch asking questions of Wednesday’s defence and making runs in behind Jordan Thorniley and Tom Lees.
The 31-year-old showed patience and confidence as he slotted into life with his new team-mates on a freezing night in west London, as Willian scored two and Callum Hudson-Odoi added another to send their side into the fifth round of the FA Cup.
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Though he was relatively quiet, Higuain’s performance was still an encouraging improvement over his predecessor at Chelsea.
A lack of touches and involvement seemed to affect Alvaro Morata during his time with the Blues, but Higuain kept making the right runs and spent the game constantly on the move.
Atletico Madrid look set to announce Morata’s signing on a loan-to-buy arrangement after he successfully completed his medical in Madrid, ending a nightmare spell at the club.
His 24 goals were not what was expected of the then-record £58 million signing from Real Madrid, but it was his all-round performances that really frustrated many as he was often physically outbattled and failed to adapt to the pressure of a starring role in the Premier League.
Morata’s mentality was frequently questioned and toward the end of his spell he failed to even celebrate some of his goals as he planned his escape route, with criticism mounting.
The cheers for Higuain ahead of kick-off may have been amped up simply because he is not Morata, whose hopeful fan base were beginning to turn on him in London.
It was a nice introduction to English football for Higuain as he faced one of the Championship’s most physical teams, and the former Real Madrid forward looked physically capable in a battle with the two big centre halves and the powerful midfield of the Yorkshire club.
His movement was sharp and when he was found he threatened Sheffield Wednesday, as his first effort was blocked and his second attempt went just wide.
Higuain had a couple of moments of fine interplay with his new team-mates, like his brilliant one-two with Mateo Kovacic that was ultimately cut out by a brilliant challenge.
There’s still room for improvement though, as Higuain only touched the ball 31 times on Sunday. He will spend the next six months trying to prove he is worth the £32m option Chelsea have to buy him from Juventus at the end of the season.
He knows what it takes to be the target forward in the system dubbed ‘Sarriball’, where a striker is not likely to get many touches or time on the ball.Article continues below
Despite a lack of touches, Higuain’s abilities in the 60-year-old’s style of play allowed him to break the Serie A record in 2015-16 with 36 goals in 35 games.
And unlike Morata, who switched to the number 29 this season, the Argentina international is brave enough to wear the so-called ‘cursed’ No. 9.
Sunday didn’t bring out the best of Higuain, but there are signs that he can eventually fill the weight of expectation in that famous shirt