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Higuain joins Chelsea from AC Milan

Gonzalo Higuain has been in poor form for AC Milan but he enjoyed a prolific season at Napoli when Maurizio Sarri was in charge.
Gonzalo Higuain has been in poor form for AC Milan but he enjoyed a prolific season at Napoli when Maurizio Sarri was in charge. AFP/Miguel Medina

With the signing on Wednesday of Gonzalo Higuain, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has taken one of the boldest gambles of his nascent career in England.

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After constantly humiliating Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata by preferring Eden Hazard in the central attacking role for the past month, the Italian has heaped further ignominy on the Frenchman and the Spaniard by drafting in an old favourite from his days in Italy.

Higuain scored 38 goals in one season under Sarri at Napoli in 2015/16.

But after those feats, the Argentine moved to Juventus for 90 million euros where he won two Serie A titles and the Coppa Italia twice.

Last summer, though, the Argentine was deemed surplus to requirements when Juve signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid for 100 million euros.

Higuain resurfaced at AC Milan. But the past few months have been a sad story. He has been dreary for the San Siro outfit with only goal in his past 12 outings.

"We hope he'll bring goals and that he'll start scoring for us," Sarri said on Wednesday. "It's very difficult in January to find one of the most important strikers in the world."

Work

Higuain will have to convince a plethora of doubters to vindicate Sarri's boast. The pressure will be acute and Sarri's judgment will come under intense scrutiny if 31-year-old Higuain fails to score or, at the very least, assist a flow of goals around him.

A magnanimous view is that Sarri is ahead of his schedule. Chelsea started the Premier League season unexpectedly brightly under his guidance.

Confirmed as the coach in July to replace Antonio Conte , the former banker had little time with the players before the start of the Premier League season.

However despite the late return of some stars who had been in the latter stages of the World Cup, they won their first five games before being held to a 0-0 draw at West Ham United on 23 September. Six days later they led Liverpool until a late equaliser from Daniel Sturridge.

Slump

However the doubts started to creep in when Chelsea allowed Wolverhampton Wanderers to come from a goal down to win 2-1.

A home defeat to Leicester City just before Christmas and recent losses to London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have not endeared Sarri's tactics to the Stamford Bridge faithful.

With Higuain's arrival, Hazard should return to his favoured role on the left side of a front three. That should lift the mood of the Belgian who has complained about playing as a "false nine".

With another "real nine", Sarri will have three of them at his disposal. Healthy competition and enough depth for a campaign which will continue with the knockout stages of the Europa League, the defence of the FA Cup as well as the chance to reach the League Cup final.

The title and second place are unlikely with Liverpool and Manchester City 13 and nine points ahead respectively.

But third or fourth - the berths for next season's Uefa Champions League - could be achieved especially if third placed Tottenham Hotspur drop points in the absence of striker Harry Kane and midfielder Dele Alli.

"I discussed with the players how to try to improve the approach, the motivation, the determination," said Sarri after the 2-0 loss at Arsenal on 16 January. "So we are trying to change something in training, in pre-match. I think we all have to react on the pitch."

Higuain, take note.

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