Morata set to join Chelsea as Premier League powers continue striker overhaul

Striker play as important in the Premier League as it is anywhere else in Europe.

Which isn’t some expression of dutiful whimsy, mind you. Aesthetically pleasing, England’s top flight often isn’t.

It prides itself on brutish roughhousing uninterrupted by the weeks-long winter breaks embedded into nearly every other league’s schedule. And minus one or two gargantuan clubs bursting at the seams with starpower that render other league title races formalities, the Premier League has had four different champions the past five seasons.

Working in such a compact pivot, manufacturing goals out of nothing and finishing the chances you get take on added importance. And England’s biggest clubs know it.

The latest move to that effect is Chelsea agreeing to a fee for Alvaro Morata, who’s spent most of his senior career as a surplus good at Real Madrid and Juventus. But the 24-year-old Spaniard is undeniably talented, a striker who can hold up play, is good in the air and moves well in tight spaces. Those skills will serve him well in the Premier League, and Spain has already started placing an emphasis on him in major international matches.

Assuming Morata passes his medical, his signing also clears the way for Chelsea to sell disgruntled striker Diego Costa. A major factor in the club’s two league titles the past three years, Costa has nonetheless been told he’s not part of the future at Stamford Bridge.

Costa clashed with manager Antonio Conte a number of times last season, and the Italian manager has a prior relationship with Morata, having signed him at Juventus before he left to take charge of the Italian national team.

Chelsea may not recoup Morata’s reported £60 million price tag, but the Blues will surely make a ton of money back thanks to Costa’s fee, so it’s a good bit of business.

Given what’s already happened this summer, it’s also necessary.

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England’s other major clubs have fortified their attacks with big signings. Arsenal appears to have finally solved its interminable search for an elite striker by paying £46.5 million for Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, whose quickness, passing and finishing could tilt the Gunners back toward the top of the table.

Manchester United splashed a ton of money for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, a sturdy, reliable goal-scorer whose abilities may not be in demand everywhere but click perfectly into place with Jose Mourinho’s team at Old Trafford.

Going back even further to the January transfer window, Manchester City might have plundered the next Brazilian star in 20-year-old Gabriel Jesus, a clinical dynamo whose work rate and finishing had him looking like the real deal before a broken metatarsal in his right foot stunted the momentum.

As for Tottenham and Liverpool, the other teams in last year’s top six? They’re blessed with gifted playmakers and scorers all over the attacking third.

So Chelsea needs Morata to be as good as promised. The Blues bought midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco earlier this month, and he’ll pair with N’Golo Kante to provide Chelsea a constantly disruptive midfield engine that will supply Morata and the other attackers with chances going forward.

If Morata converts a healthy amount of those chances, Chelsea will be favored to lift the Premier League trophy again next May.

And if he doesn’t? The other clubs have positioned themselves to poach.

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Juventus is selling Bonucci to a rival for no apparent reason
Does the Lacazette signing indicate Arsenal is changing its thinking?