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Column: What will Michy Batshuayi bring to Chelsea?


Preparations for the 2016/17 are well underway with the usual mix of humdrum friendlies, over-zealous title predictions and haphazard transfer talk, but one deal that has already been signed, sealed and delivered is Michy Batshuayi's move from Marseille to Chelsea for a fee believed to be in the region of £30m.

That is a marker of new Blues boss Antonio Conte and his ambitions for the forthcoming campaign, given that this is the first time in more than a decade that Stamford Bridge won't be witness to European competition. Bringing in a young, hungry and much-coveted starlet is an indication that atop four finish at the very minimum is the target.

Conte has spoken in glowing terms of his new charge, calling the Belgian a 'great talent'. "I think Michy can make an impact because he is a young player but very strong, with good technique," the Italian gaffer told a press conference. "He uses two feet. He is a great talent. I am very happy that Batshuayi is with us and I know the club bought a great player for the present and the future."

The big question mark surrounding the 22-year-old is a rather awkward one: how good actually is he?

Michy Do About Nothing

Born and raised in Belgium to Congolese parents, Batshuayi made his breakthrough at Standard Liege, and 39 goals in 97 appearances later he had captured the imagination of some of European football's biggest hitters.

But some disciplinary problems put off many of the vultures, and instead a £4.5 million deal with Marseille was penned. After struggling initially to come to terms with the unique stylings of French football, a breakthrough was made in the 2015/16 campaign and after bagging 20 goals in 40 appearances Chelsea came calling.

We know that the standard of Ligue 1 isn't the best, and it has become something of a 'feeder' division for the Premier League in recent times, so is that goal return of note or merely an anomaly? Happily there are instances of players coming over from France and hitting the ground running – N'Golo Kante is a prime example, but it is surely easier for a midfielder to adapt to English conditions than it is a young striker. Only time will tell on that one.

The Hitman with Heart

At 6ft tall and 78kg, Batshuayi has the physical credentials to handle the buffeting he is likely to get from English football's rather more agricultural defenders, and will offer a great 'out ball' for the likes of Cesc Fabregas given his ability to run the channels and hold the ball up. He has a bit of a nasty streak in him as well, as eight yellow cards in 32 games last season testifies, but for a bustling centre forward that should not necessarily be seen as a bad thing.

And he will add a predatory instinct to a Blues side lacking in a natural goalscorer given Diego Costa's inconsistent displays last season. His shots at goal/on target ratio is a shade under 50% - for context, Sergio Aguero was at 43% in 2015/16, while his shots-to- goal conversion percentage was 19% (Jamie Vardy was at 23%, Aguero 22%, Harry Kane 18% and Costa 20% as an indication of his productivity in front of goal). Averaging a goal every two games last term, it was also Batshuayi's ability to create chances – he recorded nine assists – that caught the eye. Here Antonio Conte has signed a player who can contribute to a number of different phases of play.

If you're looking to make a comparison with another young, talented forward, Batshuayi's style mimics that of Anthony Martial. Chelsea fans will be hoping that he can match the impact that the Frenchman made in the first half of last season.

Friend or Foe?

The question for Conte is how will he fit the young Belgian into his side? We know that the coach favours a 3-5- 2 system – he deployed that shape at both Juventus and the Italian national side last season – which suggests that there is an option to pair Batshuayi and Costa in attack.

Indeed, the 22-year-old played up front in a two with the rather less illustrious Steven Fletcher in the second half of 2015/16, so he is capable of working alongside another frontman. And as his assist stats in the past year testify, he is just as happy turning provider as marksman.

So everything appears in place for Batshuayi to make an instant impact on the Stamford Bridge faithful. If he can, there is no telling what can be achieved this season.

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