Toothless Chelsea and Blunt Arsenal drowning in striker woes
Arsenal's Lacazette and Chelsea's Morata just not delivering up front
Antonio Conte needs to sign a striker to save what's left of Chelsea's season. Arsene Wenger must keep a striker to save what's left of his Arsenal career.
Two men at very different stages of their managerial journey find themselves with the same problem.
Their futures depend on finding a half-decent centre forward.
Conte has Alvaro Morata, but not the Morata of Real Madrid.
Wenger has Alexandre Lacazette, but not the Lacazette of Lyon.
The problem is particularly acute for Wenger because his other forward promises to become the Alexis Sanchez of Manchester City, which is hardly surprising.
The Chilean's potential future employers punish opponents in the penalty box.
Arsenal and Chelsea procrastinate, overplay and generally fall over their opponents.
Their interminable 0-0 draw in the League Cup semi-final, first leg yesterday morning (Singapore time) produced only eight shots on target.
Six came from Chelsea. Arsenal managed just two, displaying the wayward aim of blindfolded Gunners.
Conte and Wenger both feigned satisfaction, calling upon the old chestnut about creating chances being the most important thing. As long as the chances are created, the goals will eventually come and so on.
But the right chances are not being taken by the right people.
Morata's Chelsea had 21 goal attempts. Lacazette's Arsenal had eight opportunities.
The two strikers profited from none of them.
A week ago, the two sides met in a madcap 2-2 EPL thriller.
Four goals went in. None came from either Morata or Lacazette.
Before that, Morata's missed sitters against Stoke City were so inept even Willian mocked his teammate's clumsiness in an interview.
Chelsea have now failed to score in seven matches. At the same stage last season, they had failed to find the net only twice.
But the Blues' penalty-box myopia isn't an isolated case. It's spreading.
Lacazette has gone eight matches without scoring.
The Frenchman misses the injured Mesut Oezil, obviously, and Sanchez's restlessness hardly helps. But Lacazette looked lost at Stamford Bridge.
He spurned Arsenal's best chance in the first half and drifted away.
Until he was substituted, the listless striker was cast to the game's periphery, where he was joined by the equally mercurial Morata. The Spaniard has now endured two stinkers in a week.
Their decision-making mirrors their play around the box; erratic, uncertain and often unreliable.
At Stamford Bridge, the spectre of Fernando Torres seems to follow Morata, weighing him down and affecting his judgement.
Considering Man City's current dominance, Chelsea can ill-afford another expensive striker whose predatory instincts didn't follow him from one club to another.
The fact that Andy Carroll has even been mentioned as a potential Chelsea target underlines the club's strange transfer dealings since allowing Diego Costa to leave in unseemly circumstances.
Previously, the thought of the wildly erratic Carroll in a Chelsea jersey would've constituted a bad joke.
Now he looks an alternative aerial threat.
It's worth considering the kind of vitriolic rage that would be directed towards Wenger if the Gunners were being seriously linked with Carroll.
Conte is getting away with it, for now at least, because much of London's spotlight focuses on Wenger and Sanchez.
Arsenal's beleaguered manager dropped Sanchez to the bench against Chelsea, claiming the striker needed "a breather".
Wenger fooled no one. The Chilean street urchin with a taste for the physical doesn't do "breathers". If he's fit, he plays.
But Wenger opted to send a message as City reportedly finalise a £20 million (S$36 million) bid for Sanchez, the only flaw in that masterplan being it's hard to fathom what that message was supposed to be.
In dropping Sanchez, Wenger merely highlighted Arsenal's paucity of striking options.
Without Sanchez (and Oezil), Lacazette looked more tentative than a teenage singer going solo after a boyband break-up.
When Sanchez replaced Lacazette in the 66th minute, the Chilean looked neither tired nor injured, which made a mockery of his substitute's role.
Arsenal supporters soon roared their disapproval.
"You don't know what you're doing," they sang at Wenger.
It was hard to disagree.
Lacazette desperately needed Sanchez's company at Stamford Bridge. How the Frenchman will struggle without him.
Lacazette can't lead the line on his own.
Indeed, Arsenal selling Sanchez would feel a bit like Chelsea buying Carroll.
Neither deal fixes either club's goal-scoring problems. More worryingly, they both reek of desperation.