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Morata dip could become a major problem for toothless Chelsea

4:22 am AEDT 17/12/17
Alvaro Morata Chelsea Southampton
The Blues striker was a surprise omission from the squad against the Saints but his place should be safe in the coming weeks

Antonio Conte is undoubtedly in possession of a diverse group of attacking talents which he can rotate and use to surprise opponents in the business end of the season. However, right now, Chelsea have lost their killer instinct.

Conte has tried a number of different combinations up front since the last international break and that is partly due to a hectic fixture list. However, he is also chopping and changing because he is still looking for the right attacking formula, as Chelsea have been guilty of wastefulness in recent weeks.

Eden Hazard is being used as a false nine again, with Pedro and Willian feeding off him in a front three, because, after a great start to his Stamford Bridge career, summer signing Alvaro Morata has looked tired of late. Consequently, he was left out of the starting line-up for the midweek meeting with Huddersfield Town.

However, there was to be no recall for the £60 million striker against Southampton on Saturday, even though he was fit and refreshed. Chelsea still managed to win the game but only thanks to a set-piece special from Marcos Alonso. The absence of a genuine No.9, a true goalscorer, was painfully obvious.

Chelsea's diminutive front three are great to watch and they produced numerous flicks and tricks against the Saints but they were unable to fashion a goal between them. The Blues very nearly paid for their profligacy, with Southampton having had a couple of near-misses in the closing stages.

Pedro did hit the post and the reinvigorated Willian, who has been involved in six goals in his last five starts, produced a nice one-two to open up a chance for himself but that was, effectively, the sum total of their efforts before Hazard was replaced by Morata having had just one shot on goal.

In truth, Southampton coped quite comfortably with Chelsea's attacking triumvirate and it is telling that Alonso is now Chelsea's third top scorer in the league with four, after deciding the game in the home side's favour with a curling free-kick.

Furthermore, the Spaniard only has one less goal than the talismanic Hazard, which only serves to underline just why the Blues are already so far behind runaway league leaders Manchester City

Of course, Conte needs more goals from midfield and his fringe players if he is to win in a trophy this season – the wide variety of goalscorers was key to last season's title triumph – but the onus is very much on his forwards and attacking midfielders to do their jobs.

Chelsea have won eight of their last 10 league games but, put quite simply, City are setting a standard in front of goal that the Blues can't currently match.

Morata will have more chances in the coming weeks but he needs to be the world-class goalscorer that Chelsea brought him in to be. There is nothing to suggest that he is set for a prolonged spell on the bench. He remains Chelsea's top scorer by some distance. 

But Conte has taken this week as an opportunity to remind the Spain international that he is not a certain starter and that the kind of ineffective displays he turned in against West Ham and Atletico Madrid will not go unpunished. Conte was critical of his full group's efforts in front of goal after the match at Stamford Bridge.

"This season we've created many chances, but we must be more accurate with the finishing," Conte said. "When you score more than one goal, you can stay more relaxed. Me, as well as my players."

The same goes for Chelsea. Unless they rediscover their killer instinct - and fast - they will find themselves not only out of the title race, but out of the top four as well.