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Football news - Gonzalo Higuain's best will come when Chelsea remember how to play with a striker

Higuain's best will come when Chelsea remember how to play with a striker

28/01/2019 at 08:18Updated 28/01/2019 at 09:50

Maurizio Sarri's main man has just swaggered into town. Dan Levene watched a mixed Chelsea debut for Gonzalo Higuain at Stamford Bridge.

After sitting there for six months, too polite to ask, Maurizio Sarri has at long last been handed the final piece of his jigsaw.

Gonzalo Higuain has been hyped as the biggest show in town: and he'll be here on loan for at least six months; 18 if things go really well.

January arrivals such as the Argentine must find their first steps in the English game – often, as was the case here, via the FA Cup – strange ones.

6,000 Sheffield Wednesday fans hollered and hammered: occupying the whole of The Shed.

“Who the f*** is Higuain?” they asked.

And while he didn't reply with a goal, what we did see from him was certainly an improvement on the preceding lead act in that role.

The advance intelligence about the forward's weight seemed overstated: yes, he was maybe a pound or two over the ideal; but compared, for example, with Diego Costa's final return to Cobham from Brazil, he was supermodel-eque.

He moved about reasonably well: finding himself in the box more often in these 82 minutes than Alvara Morata seemed to manage in the preceding six months.

As for other inevitable comparisons with Chelsea's departing Spaniard: he steadfastly heeded the number one rule of much-missed hero Ray Wilkins by staying on his feet throughout; and he seemed well acquainted with the offside laws – all a bonus.

The main problem seemed to be that, so used were his team-mates to playing without a striker, they seldom managed to pick-out those beneficial positions.

That will take time and training: work will be done at Cobham to share understanding of his runs.

Crucial will be his link-up with Jorginho: whose ultra-brief cameo role here did not overlap with his old pal's starring part.

The midfield metronome has oft been criticised this season for a lack of forward thinking: where, if we are being fair to him, there has seldom been a forward worthy of the name to think about.

Ethan Ampadu, his understudy on Sunday, initially showed more of those link-up balls. But the urgency needed in his passing was sorely lacking, and the search for a position for the talented teen will continue to another day.

Chelsea's English-born Welsh midfielder Ethan Ampadu (top) leaps a challenge during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday at Stamford Bridge in London on January 27, 2019.

Chelsea's English-born Welsh midfielder Ethan Ampadu (top) leaps a challenge during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday at Stamford Bridge in London on January 27, 2019.Getty Images

The other key on-pitch relationship will be with Eden Hazard who was given the day off for the visit of the South Yorks hordes.

He should now find himself a free man again: released from the strictures of false-ninedom, which never really worked, and certainly didn't bring out the best in his generous talents.

Having been exposed, first time out, to the great English tradition of the lower-league FA Cup drubbing; Higuain will see another on Wednesday – the day-trip to the seaside.

Though on this occasion buckets, spades, flip-flops and 'kiss me quick' hats may be left in the packing case: with the full time forecast for Bournemouth reading a mercury-tightening 'minus 3c'.

I'll not lurch into the usual lazy assumptions about South Americans and chilly temperatures (Argentina is home to four species of penguin), but it is fair to assume a January Wednesday at Dean Court will provide a novel experience for the new man.

Meanwhile, back at the Bridge: and the Wednesday-ites gave early evening TV refugees from Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow a chorus of 'We've got Michael Hector'.

So, if all else fails, have Chelsea. But that's a story for another week.

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