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Chelsea's dearth of attacking options exposed in scoreless draw at Norwich

Chelsea's dearth of attacking options exposed in scoreless draw at Norwich
From ESPN - January 6, 2018

NORWICH, England -- The most memorable moment of Chelsea's forgettable goalless draw with Norwich City at Carrow Road arrived in the 72nd minute. Michy Batshuayi, having dropped into his own half in an attempt to link play, dallied on the ball and was dispossessed. On the touchline, Alvaro Morata was swiftly summoned from his stretching and told to ready himself to come on.

It would be unfair to single out Batshuayi's anonymous display; the best attack Chelsea mounted all evening was Antonio Conte's withering post-match takedown of Jose Mourinho. But the Belgian's latest underwhelming audition for Morata's starting spot was a timely reminder that the Premier League champions are navigating a gruelling season with attacking resources that compare poorly to most of their top-six rivals.

There is a commitment from the Chelsea hierarchy to try to bolster Conte's squad with January signings, and the cut-price acquisition of Ross Barkley from Everton this week was an encouraging start. When fit, the 24-year-old is capable of being another option either in central midfield or as one of the two creators behind Morata. But there are broader issues his arrival alone will not fix.

Chelsea are a shadow of the attacking force they were last season, when they won the Premier League title scoring 85 goals -- a tally bettered by only five English top-flight champions in 25 years. The 2017-18 campaign has yielded 41 goals in 22 games, the worst tally in the top five. The stalemate against Norwich was the sixth time Chelsea have failed to find the net in all competitions. By this time last season, it had happened only twice, against Arsenal and Tottenham.

The departure of Diego Costa was always going to leave a void, and his absence is felt more keenly with every gilt-edged chance Morata misses; after a sparkling start to his Chelsea career, the Spain international has scored five goals in 19 games since September, and his confidence looks shot.

He could perhaps do with a break, but when the alternative is Batshuayi, a man who was not signed to be a lone striker -- Conte arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2016 with 4-2-4 in his mind -- and who remains ill-suited to the role, rotating him out of the firing line is not considered a realistic option.

Nor is this simply a striker problem. Pedro, the deadliest natural finisher in Conte's squad, has been directly involved in just six Premier League goals this season (four goals, two assists), having registered nine goals and nine assists -- many of them crucial as well as spectacular -- in 2016-17.

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