Maurizio Sarri‘s Chelsea welcome Swedish club Malmo FF to Stamford Bridge this evening in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League round-of-32 tie tonight.
The Blues triumphed 1-2 in the first leg thanks to goals from Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud, which were counter-acted by a late Anders Christiansen strike that kept Uwe Rosler’s men firmly in the tie.
Whilst much of the talk in the build-up to this game has been about the midfield of the west London club and how consistently getting it wrong is jeopardising the future of their Italian manager, following the Emirates FA Cup exit at home to Manchester United. Sarri also has a dilemma up-front.
This surrounds which striker he will start for the 8pm kick-off this evening and the two main contenders are new signing Gonzalo Higuain, yet to feature for Chelsea in the Europa League, or scorer in the first leg, Giroud. Today, we’re going to carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis comparing the two players in order to decide which one should be chosen to spearhead their attack.
In order to do this, we’re going to use the below graphic from our good friends over at whoscored.com to compare their offensive statistics in the Europa League this campaign to reach our decision.
As you can see, all of Argentine international Higuain’s figures are from his time at AC Milan, having featured a lot for the Italian giants in this tournament before his loan move to the Premier League in January. While Giroud’s are with Chelsea.
Despite making more appearances in the UEFA competition in 2018/2019, Giroud has fewer minutes and fewer starts under his belt, though there’s very little separating them. There is when it comes to goals, however, with the 32-year-old beating the 31-year-old with a resounding five goals to his two.
But something that Higuain does have in the Europa League this term and Giroud doesn’t is an assist, showing the creativity he can bring to the table on what could be a tricky night for his new team.
The South American also wins when it comes to the next five stats, averaging more shots per game, more key passes per game, more dribbles per game, and has also been fouled more and found offside fewer times per game. Although, being dispossessed less and registering fewer bad controls per game, Giroud edges Higuain’s WhoScored overall average rating of 7.26, as you can see.
In conclusion, if we’re going by the number of stats won in our statistics-and-tactical-analysis-driven comparison today, then Higuain is the clear winner (8-5). Therefore, he is the striker Sarri should start as his side looks to progress to the round-of-16.
It would be a risk given his low fitness levels and Giroud would undoubtedly need to come on as an impact substitute and some stage in the match. But at this point, risks are what the under-pressure manager needs to be taking.
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