Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri believes a maturing Alvaro Morata can be the free-scoring striker his side needs after scoring twice in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.
However, the Italian called on Morata to keep improving physically, mentally and technically if his goals are to help Chelsea keep pace with Premier League leaders Manchester City.
After a fast start to his Chelsea career after a then club record £60 million move from Real Madrid last year, Morata had scored just twice in 20 Premier League games before netting in last month’s 3-0 win at Southampton.
But he now has four goals in as many league games after two fine finishes to twice give Chelsea the lead either side of half-time before Pedro Rodriguez sealed the three points to take Sarri’s men above Liverpool into second, two points behind City.
“He is a little bit fragile from the mental point of view, but he is very young I think he can improve very fast,” said Sarri.
“I think also Alvaro has a very great potential, physical potential, technical potential, so he has to improve more.”
Morata even had the chance for a hat-trick when put clean through by Eden Hazard in stoppage time, but failed to fool Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey with his attempted chip.
“I can score a hat-trick so it was not the perfect day but we will take the three points,” said Morata.
“When you have a bad period, it takes long to recover.
“Last year was difficult for me for many things. You don’t expect an injury but now I am good, it is nice to be scoring.”
– Hazard’s immediate impact –
Hazard was only fit enough for a place on the bench on his return from a back injury and his creative spark was badly missed as Chelsea laboured until his introduction just after the hour mark.
“I think it was really very important to have him on the bench,” added Sarri.
“We were lucky because immediately, in the first minute, I think he was able to change our match.
“Hazard is Hazard, he is able to do it very often.”
Chelsea took over half an hour to create anything of note, but Morata took the first opportunity to come his way.
The Spanish international showed a confidence that has been sorely lacking for the majority of his Chelsea career by deftly controlling Pedro’s cross before drilling the ball low past Hennessey.
Sarri is now unbeaten in his first 16 competitive games as Chelsea boss, but will know there is still plenty of room for improvement as a sleepy start to the second-half was punished in the 53rd minute.
David Luiz was caught ball watching and Townsend played a quick one-two with James McArthur before firing low past Kepa Arrizalabaga.
“I don’t think we were battered by Chelsea today,” said Palace manager Roy Hodgson.
“I don’t think we were confronted with lots of goal chances and we kept them at bay pretty well, but they were clinical.”
It wasn’t until Sarri summoned Hazard and Mateo Kovacic from the bench in the 64th minute that Chelsea took control.
Hazard’s first involvement was to be chopped down midway inside the Palace half, and his free-kick found a way through to Morata, who arrowed a shot into the far corner.
Five minutes later Chelsea had breathing room as Morata again did well to leave Marcos Alonso’s cross for the onrushing Pedro to slot home.