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Chelsea v Arsenal: Quiet poachers Morata and Lacazette beginning bid for A-List

Chelsea v Arsenal: Quiet poachers Morata and Lacazette beginning bid for A-List

At Stamford Bridge on Sunday, the forgotten record signings will step into the spotlight.

Premier League champions Chelsea spent heavily over recent months amid regular prompting from head coach Antonio Conte, warning of the perils of fighting for honours on two fronts.

The Blues have impressively hit their stride following the 3-2 opening day defeat to Burnley in the Premier League, but the defining image of their close season was Conte's irritation at targets that got away.

The players Chelsea did not manage to buy, like Romelu Lukaku, are as much a part of the story as ones they did, but no more so than one in particular who they failed to shift.

At Arsenal, the focus was trained upon who might leave as opposed to who arrived. Alexis Sanchez stayed, in the end – the circumstances providing little satisfaction for any of the parties concerned.

Nevertheless, if Sanchez follows up his starring Europa League showing versus Cologne with another start, he is likely to do so alongside Alexandre Lacazette – the quicksilver French goal poacher and most expensive player in the Gunners' history.

Arsene Wenger's defence must deal with a Chelsea attack not spearheaded by Lukaku, who has proved to be an instant hero at Manchester United, or persona non grata Diego Costa, but Alvaro Morata. Roman Abramovich has never signed off on a bigger single outlay.

Beyond the prevailing narratives at their new clubs, Morata's £60million move from Real Madrid to Chelsea and Lacazette's £52.7m departure from Lyon to Arsenal could hardly be listed as transfer sensations.

Lacazette's countryman Ousmane Dembele broke through the €100m barrier to become Barcelona's most expensive buy, while Kylian Mbappe and Benjamin Mendy cashed in their stellar campaigns with Monaco to join Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City respectively.

A market placing a high premium on potential seemed to value meteoric rises more than the hard yards put in by Lacazette in, who brought up a century of Ligue 1 goals in his final appearance for Lyon. The 26-year-old is the fourth highest scorer of all-time for a club where he progressed through the youth ranks.

Morata came through Madrid's C and B teams but the 24-year-old flew the nest for a two-season stay at Juventus, where Conte signed off on his purchase but never coached him due to taking charge of Italy's national team.

Despite an excellent scoring record for both European giants, Morata returned to the Santiago Bernabeu still as the supporting actor. Neither club relied on him desperately for the goals the churned out. He was the not-quite star.

The same could be said of Lacazette, as Lyon's big fish remained in the pond despite fleeting speculation. Season after season the big bucks would go elsewhere.

Now both men are integral to clubs with lofty ambitions in Europe's richest league and the initial signs are good.

Given Lacazette thrives running in behind defences on to passes that are a speciality for the maligned Mesut Ozil, while Morata is responsive to Conte's specific demands of a centre-forward in terms of positioning and link play, their statistical returns are remarkably similar.

Morata has three goals to Lacazette's two across four appearances this term, where they have completed 21 and 18 touches respectively in the opposition box.

Largely due to increased game time, Lacazette outscored his fellow forward by 30 to 18 in 2016-17, although Morata's minutes-to-goal ratio is 89.4, set alongside the older man's 89.3.

The prospect of 90 minutes passing in west London without either of these supreme finishers getting on the scoresheet does not appear to be one worth banking upon.

Score decisively to settle the latest instalment of a bitter rivalry and either's pending transformation from almost-star to A-lister will have taken a leap forward worth waiting for.


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