Chelsea boss Antonio Conte can point the blame at the club's transfer policy but he has young and hungry strikers at his disposal.
A few years ago, before ‘going viral’ had become a common turn of phrase on social media, an amusing advertisement from a real footballing go-getter did the rounds in England.
‘STRIKER AVAILABLE’, the ad read, which had presumably been tacked onto the side of a bus stop. ‘MY NAMES GARY GOALS AND I AM THE TOP CLASS STRIKER + I WILL PLAY FOR YOUR TEAM!!!’
What Gary lacked in grammar he made up for in enthusiasm and general braggadocio. Among his claims: trials at Doncaster United (sic) and playing against Wayne Rooney’s cousin, a set-piece expert including ‘the penos’, and that he had scored in every game he has played in.
Mr Goals’ real identity was never revealed (although this was around the same time that Harry Kane came to prominence. Coincidence?). However, providing he’s over 180cm tall, it’s only a matter of time before Chelsea enquire about his availability.
Because – being sincere here – who is left for Chelsea to chase should their pursuit of a soon-to-be 37 Peter Crouch fall through? If the checklist starts and ends with English, tall and a distinctly average Liverpool career, they could do worse than try and coax Rickie Lambert out of retirement.
It speaks for how muddled the transfer policy is at Stamford Bridge that they are left flailing for any ‘have boots, will travel’ option despite the millions they invest in their squad every summer.
The fissures between Antonio Conte and the board, namely chief negotiator Marina Granovskaia, have been visible for the best part of a year now but the Italian must be on the verge of cracking up completely every time he thinks of Crouchy in a blue shirt.
Conte cannot be absolved of blame. Yes, he made it clear that he wanted experience in Fernando Llorente over the summer, but he has hastily come to the conclusion that €40m man Michy Batshuayi is not up to scratch.
“He has to show me that he’s better than (Alvaro) Morata, or than (Eden) Hazard. It’s very simple,” Conte said recently when asked about the Belgian’s lack of game time. It’s an odd comment given that Morata is toughing out an ice-cold streak in front of goal and Chelsea are still in four competitions. Conte has simply decided he is no fan of a coachable 24-year-old and would rather send him off to Sevilla and get an [insert tall, old striker here] in replacement.
What Chelsea do administer to perfection is the manipulation of the loan system, and Batshuayi’s move to La Liga would be No.35.
Most of these players will not once wear a Chelsea shirt proper. Instead they are farmed out, fattened up with appearances and sold at a premium when the time is right.
It plumps up the profit margins but is farcical that the club has so many young, extremely talented players on their books – many of whom would be delighted with just a spot on Chelsea’s bench – yet still resort to the market to add depth to their first-team.
What must Tammy Abraham be thinking right now, knowing that Crouch – a player nearly 17 years his senior, a player who was merely useful at his peak – could be unveiled at Chelsea while he is struggling for game time at Swansea? Abraham (who, by the way, is 190cm tall) and Stoke sub Crouch have both been starved of chances in poor sides, but only one of them could possibly be the future at Stamford Bridge.
That Chelsea did not have the foresight to install a break clause in Abraham’s loan deal, knowing full well they have been a striker short since the summer, is yet another failure in planning.
Perhaps he’s just another young player Conte does not look like the of. But whether Crouch or Gary Goals responds to his SOS call this month, Conte could help out his side by doing what he’s paid to do – coach.