Neil Humphreys: Morata can't match Costa
Chelsea striker lacks confidence when it matters
Timing is everything. Diego Costa scored yesterday. Alvaro Morata didn't.
Atletico Madrid's homecoming hero needed just five minutes to hit the target, coming off the bench to score on his second debut.
Morata needed 90 minutes and stoppage time to confirm that he lacks his predecessor's confidence and consistency.
Had Costa stayed at Chelsea, the Blues would've waltzed to victory at Arsenal yesterday morning (Singapore time) instead of settling for a point in a lively 2-2 draw.
Costa was a bull in a china shop. He broke stuff. He didn't discriminate. Opposing defenders, tentative teammates, uncompromising managers, the Spaniard went after them all.
He irritated. He polarised. But he remains a master of menace. He still dominates a penalty box in a fashion that appears beyond Morata.
The £70-million (S$126m) Chelsea signing had three gilt-edged opportunities against Arsenal and squandered them all.
On three occasions, Morata found himself behind the back four, with the ball at this feet and only Petr Cech to beat.
Cech enjoyed a memorable night, but no goalkeeper expects to prevail in three one-on-ones against the same striker.
By the law of averages, Morata had to find the net eventually. But he didn't. More worryingly, he didn't ever look like he would either.
His second effort cleared the crossbar, but the misses either side were the ones that will haunt his dreams and concern Antonio Conte.
Naturally, the Chelsea manager defended his striker's profligacy. He blamed bad luck.
Other Chelsea employees blamed bad finishing.
When Morata missed a couple of sitters against Stoke City last week, Willian made fun of the Spaniard, offering to lend him a pair of scoring boots.
Yesterday, Eden Hazard was less diplomatic. He wasn't particularly impressed with either a point or Morata's wayward finishing.
Hazard referred to Morata's golden opportunity in stoppage time. The striker was through on goal, but bungled a shot straight at Cech.
The Arsenal keeper didn't need to move.
In the first half, the same scenario ended with a slightly different outcome. The Arsenal keeper didn't need to make a save.
Morata missed the target completely.
Among the Chelsea hierarchy, there must be a growing suspicion that £70 million hasn't bought an upgrade on the irascible Costa.
The Atletico man is never going to win a popularity contest, but he never wasted three clearcut chances in the EPL either.
Chelsea just haven't been the same without him.
Morata has scored 10 goals in 20 EPL appearances, but he's a Real Madrid graduate currently benefiting from the service of Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and the fabulous Marcos Alonso.
He's meeting the basic prerequisites of his job description, but not much more than that.
The 25-year-old remains a long way from replicating the likes of Costa or Sergio Aguero, i.e. the goal-scoring consistency required to win titles.
Conte has quietly steadied the Chelsea ship after that early-season choppiness and deserves credit for settling the defence by dropping David Luiz and dealing with the loss of Nemanja Matic in midfield.
But he hasn't fixed Chelsea's forward line.
Morata and Michy Batshuayi do not represent a striking department of considerable depth, quite the opposite in fact.
Hazard can play through he middle - and often has - but the Belgian is so much more than a Band Aid up front. His creative strengths lie just behind a No. 9.
No wonder he struggled to hide his irritation after the London Derby. Hazard produces enough chances. He can't be expected to finish them as well.
He can't be in two places at once.
Morata continues to be in the right place at the right time, but his confidence seems shot to pieces. As Gary Neville pointed out, Morata never really looked like he had the beating of Cech.
Indeed, the Spaniard looks like a 25-year-old striker who once played a longstanding cameo role in a trophy-laden squad, but is now being asked to occupy centre stage.
And he's faltering under the spotlight.
Morata has scored in only one of the Blues' last seven EPL matches.
He must rediscover his self-belief or his Chelsea stay could be a brief one.
Conte has already displayed characteristic ruthlessness in getting rid of a striker who scored goals regularly for Chelsea.
He'll have no problem getting rid of a striker who isn't.