One of the worst kept secrets in football was finally announced on Monday afternoon as Chelsea confirmed that Antonio Conte would take over the Stamford Bridge reins upon the culmination of Euro 2016. The Italian had been heavily linked with a switch to London in recent weeks, with it more a matter of when, not if, the Blues would appoint Conte as their new manager. As one might expect, gossip columns have been quick to point out a list of potential transfer targets in Serie A that Chelsea’s incoming boss could move for in the summer.
One of those recently linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge is Napoli frontman Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine’s 30 league goals this season – more than any other player in Italy’s top flight – has helped return a WhoScored.com rating of 7.69, the joint-best in Serie A. While Napoli will be keen to retain the services of their star striker, Higuain has long been linked with a move to England and at 28 years of age, there may not be as good a chance as now to ply his trade in the Premier League.
It comes at a time when Chelsea are expected to overhaul their attack this coming transfer window. Diego Costa, despite a clear upturn in form, is rumoured to have his heart set on a return to Spain, while Loic Remy, Alexandre Pato and Falcao are all set to depart the Blues at the end of the season. Indeed, their respective departures would leave Chelsea short of offensive options, with Higuain now supposedly topping the club’s most wanted list.
The Argentina international has been attracting interest from across the continent this season and should Napoli reluctantly agree to sell, he would have his fair share of potential suitors. An average of 5.4 shots per game is the most of all players in Serie A this season and highlights an unwavering confidence to continuously try his luck against the opposition. It’s clearly a tack that works as his goal return suggests and is a facet of his game that would certainly appeal to Conte.
With the creative personnel operating in the final third for Chelsea, it’s fair to say the chances would be readily created for Higuain, who would gobble them up. The Napoli striker has scored more clear-cut goalscoring chances (17) than any other player in Serie A this season, accentuating his statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘finishing’. Yet, Higuain is hardly a striker who will simply wait for the opportunities to be presented to him, but rather work hard off the ball in order to bring others into play and work the channels as his number of key passes (1.4) and successful dribbles per game (1.5) highlights.
Conte is rumoured to be prepared to set his side up in a 3-5-2 formation when he does take charge of Chelsea, meaning Higuain will need to maximise his off the ball form in order to help create space and chances for his teammates. However, if his performances for Napoli are anything to go by, he will be capable of performing the duties needed of him should Conte indeed opt for a three-man backline or a more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation.
With the striker now set for a four-match ban following his red card in the 3-1 defeat Udinese at the weekend, it’s possible to think he may well have played his last game for the club. If Chelsea indeed firm up their reported interest in Higuain, even if he does cost a fair bit to sign, they will have themselves a striker more than capable of firing the club back to domestic glory.