Mark Hughes went into Saturday’s clash at the bet365 Stadium without four recognised central defenders and it took all of 83 seconds for Morata to force a way through the makeshift back-line.
The £60 million summer signing from Real Madrid ran on to a ball over the top to slot home before the visitors doubled their lead on the half-hour when Pedro capitalised on Darren Fletcher’s mistake.
Morata sealed all three points – and his hat-trick – late on, first lofting the ball over Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland and minutes later being on hand to poke home a shot from close-range.
The result sees Chelsea rise back above Tottenham into third in the Premier League, three points behind the Manchester sides at the top, whilst a first home defeat sees Stoke fall down to 15th place.
Who needs Diego Costa?
Whilst Saturday’s newspaper headlines were full of Diego Costa’s return to Atletico Madrid, Chelsea’s summer signing Alvaro Morata continued his fine start to life in the Premier League.
It took all of 83 seconds for the Spaniard to breach Stoke City’s resilience and slot the visitors in front, latching on to a long-ball over the top of the defence to seamlessly finish past Jack Butland.
In doing so it signalled his fourth goal of the Premier League season in six matches – and the first with his feet – before he added a sublime lofted effort and a close-range strike to earn his hat-trick.
It takes Morata’s direct involvement to eight goals in six matches, and there’s only one man in Chelsea history that has been involved in as many in their first six – surprise, surprise, it’s Costa.
The Atletico man went on to find the net 58 times in 120 games in west London, including 20 in the title triumph last year, and it’d be a brave man to bet against Morata eclipsing this tally in the future.
Stoke’s defensive crisis exploited by rampant Blues
The hosts were always likely to be up against it from the opening whistle on Saturday afternoon though, with Mark Hughes’ defensive resources heavily stretched heading into the Chelsea clash.
Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron and Kevin Wimmer were all ruled out due to respective injuries whilst Kurt Zouma, so influential in the opening five games, was ineligible against his parent club.
This meant that Hughes had to ring the changes and bring in Glen Johnson for his first Premier League start of the season, maintaining a 3-4-3 system and shifting Erik Pieters into a central role.
However, they simply had no answer to a rampant Chelsea side, sometimes being the architects of their own downfall, and Hughes will be grateful that Zouma will become available again for Southampton.
Crouch still has his place in the Premier League
With the likes of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Xherdan Shaqiri and Jese Rodriguez all gracing the bet365 Stadium pitch with their presence, Saturday showed there’s still a place for Peter Crouch.
What the ‘new guard’ of Stoke City attackers can offer in flair, creativity and pace is more than matched in Crouch’s old-fashioned threat as a target-man and he caused Chelsea a few problems.
Much like Andy Carroll for West Ham, the 36-year-old’s mere physical presence offers Stoke a different dynamic in attack and when needing a ‘Plan B’ – like they were against the Blues – it’s a real asset.
On another day one of his knock-downs would have ended up in the path of a team-mate and find the back of the net but, whilst it perhaps didn’t quite come together against Chelsea, it just served to prove that Crouch will have a vital role in this Stoke side as the Premier League season rumbles on.
Three key takeaways from Crystal Palace’s transfer window
The summer transfer window drew to a close on Thursday.
Crystal Palace finished deadline day with the last-minute confirmation of the loan signing of Jordan Ayew from Swansea City. The Eagles finished the window with four total signings, but only spent a total of £9.5 million.
The south Londoners made do with a tight budget and held on to their crown jewel Wilfried Zaha, resulting in a successful summer. Here are three things we learnt from Palace’s transfer business.
Don’t believe the tabloid hype
The Wilfried Zaha saga was perhaps the most drawn out transfer rumour of the entire window, and as many Palace supporters had expected, it was completely unfounded.
Despite the numerous claims that Zaha had rejected a contract, was eager to leave to a supposedly bigger club, or was itching to play Champions League football, the Ivory Coast international remained at Selhurst Park.
The winger still has four years left on his contract, has spoken publicly about his love for the club, and will again be crucial to Crystal Palace’s success this season. Still an Eagle, Zaha’s status reveals the sensationalist nature of many tabloids that aim to create unrest when none is present.
Doing business on a budget is difficult, but not impossible
According to The Guardian, Palace’s transfer budget was restricted due to the high wages being paid to star players such as Mamadou Sahko and Christian Benteke. Yet, in the face of these barriers, the club managed to secure a number of canny deals at a low cost.
Ayew was brought in on loan, goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and midfielder Max Meyer were free transfers, and Cheikhou Kouyate was the only purchase of the summer at £9.5 million.
Four players of top quality for less than £10 million represents astute business, and Palace should be applauded for conducting decent deals on a shoestring budget.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s absence will be felt thanks to Chelsea‘s terrible transfer policy
Crystal Palace made it no secret that they were eager to bring Ruben Loftus-Cheek back to SE25 this summer, but unfortunately for both the club and player, Chelsea refused to let him leave.
On the face of it, it was an encouraging decision for Loftus-Cheek, as he would be finally handed consistent football at his parent club. Yet the loan signing of Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid further pushes the England international down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, leaving many to wonder why Chelsea barred him from a return to Crystal Palace.
In the end, the Eagles will miss his presence in midfield and will undoubtedly be frustrated to watch Loftus-Cheek wasting away on the Chelsea bench.
One to watch: Derby County’s 19-year-old midfielder Mason Mount
Introducing The Boot Room’s 2018/19 One to Watch series…
Mason Mount has arrived on loan at Derby County as a well-known quantity.
The Englishman spent a number of successful years in Chelsea’s youth academy, featuring under the Rams’ new assistant coach Jody Morris.
As a Blue, his progress has also been closely monitored by Derby’s new manager Frank Lampard, who was keen to bring Mount on loan after his stunning season in the Eredivisie with Vitesse.
“He’s creative, plays from central midfield in an attacking sense, scores, and creates goals,” Lampard said after the announcement that Mount would be joining Derby on loan this season.
These characteristics will be important for Derby who will once again be chasing promotion this season.
Mount is a dynamic threat in an attacking midfield role.
His ability to make correct decisions in attacking transition phases should prove crucial in unlocking the potential of the array of forward-thinking talent Lampard has at his disposal.
The 19-year-old is always looking to take risks to advance the ball and play attackers in behind the defence.
Similarly, he ensures routinely accurate delivery from set-pieces and is capable of scoring from dead ball situations himself.
Depending on the formation Lampard will look to play at Derby, Mount could also be suited to play as a number eight – his ball-carrying quality is another one of his strongpoints that would be particularly useful in such a role.
The 19-year-old has already proven his capabilities at senior level, but the Championship provides him with another chance to showcase his qualities to his parent club in a league with a different dynamic.
In saying this, Mount’s game should translate well to English football as it is not overly predicated on any particular style of football, nor is he reliant on a system being shaped around him. He is dynamic.
Derby should target Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, hand him the number nine shirt
Derby County are set to embark on the dawn of a new era under the management of Frank Lampard.
Sky Bet Championship outfit Derby County recently unveiled their squad numbers for the 2018/19 campaign, on their official website, and the obvious omission from the list was the void of a number nine
The Rams have signed five new players this summer and it was thought in some people’s eyes that big-money recruit Jack Marriott, who arrived from Peterborough United, might be handed the famous shirt number
Marriott has taken number 14 and it leaves those of a Derby persuasion with a a sense of suspicion that boss Frank Lampard might not be quite finished in the transfer market just yet.
Ipswich Town striker Martyn Waghorn has been heavily linked with a move to the East Midlands, but given the money that the Tractor Boys are wanting to recoup for their star attraction, the Rams might be better off looking elsewhere to bolster their attacking ranks.
Lampard has already raided his former club Chelsea this summer to sign highly-rated youngster Mason Mount and a return to Stamford Bridge to request another favour might be in the Derby boss’ best interests, when it comes to signing a new striker.
Striker Tammy Abraham is not expected to get much of a look in under new Blues’ boss Maurizio Sarri and another loan move away from London could be on the agenda for the man who spent last season on loan at Swansea City.
In netting five goals from his 31 Premier League appearances at the Liberty Stadium he hardly set the league alight, but it is the form he showed during a loan spell at Bristol City that should tempt the Derby boss into a move for the talisman.
During his season-long stint at Ashton Gate he netted 23 goals from 41 games and was named the club’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year, demonstrating a devastating level of composure in front of goal at Championship level.
The Rams aren’t blessed with loads of pace when it comes to out-and-out strikers and Abraham’s youthful exuberance would make him a shrewd addition to Lampard’s new-look Rams squad, whilst a player of his ability would be more than worthy of wearing the number nine shirt.
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