Batshuayi’s loan move from Chelsea to Crystal Palace makes perfect sense
Michy Batshuayi’s return to Crystal Palace suits every party. For Chelsea, who have renewed Batshuayi’s contract for one more year until 2022, they protect an asset which could be worth much more with a full season of Premier League football under his belt.
For Palace it is simply a no-brainer. Re-sign a player who excelled on loan in his first spell two seasons ago, scoring six goals in 13 appearances at Selhurst Park.
And, ultimately, for Batshuayi, at 26, it is a chance for him to shine at a most crucial point in his career.
It is worth assessing how it has got to this point where the Belgium striker, who continues to flourish for his country as seen on Tuesday night when he scored twice in the 5-1 win over Iceland, has fallen so out of favour at Stamford Bridge.
It certainly wasn’t the intention when Antonio Conte made him his first signing as Chelsea manager four years ago. Arriving on a five-year deal from Marseille for £33.2m, Batshuayi joined with ringing endorsements from Belgium team-mates Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois.
With Conte opting for a three-man attack with one central striker, Diego Costa, Batshuayi found himself making more appearances from the bench than starts.
For someone who has become one of Chelsea’s forgotten men in recent years it’s perhaps important to note it was the Belgium striker who came on against West Brom when the score was 0-0 with the Premier League title still to be clinched. In the 82nd minute, with Chelsea still struggling to find a way through, Batshuayi struck past Ben Foster to round off a fifth Premier League title for the Blues.
Since that 2016-17 season he’s made cameo appearance after cameo appearance without ever establishing himself in the firm plans of a manager he’s played under. Loan spells at Borussia Dortmund and Valencia – as well as the one at Palace – have come and gone.
Frank Lampard gave him chances last season and Batshuayi delivered six goals but with only two of them coming in the top flight and Champions League he’s never been fully trusted to feature on a regular basis.
In recent months it’s been clear that Batshuayi’s time at Chelsea – at least under Lampard – is over. When last season’s top flight restarted in June he made the bench on three occasions but never got a taste of the action.
The signing of Timo Werner was confirmation to Batshuayi that he wasn’t wanted. Dropping down the pecking order from third to fourth-choice striker behind Werner, Oliver Giroud and Tammy Abraham was the signal for him to assess his options and move on.
And at Palace it all seems to make sense. From that previous loan spell not much has changed from Roy Hodgson still being manager to Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha still occupying positions in an attack which Batshuayi fitted in so well.
‘I can’t wait,’ Batshuayi tweeted when he joined Palace on loan in January 2019 and you get the sense it’s the same sentiment this time around.
‘The most important thing for me is having playing time for me and to be ready when I come to the national team,’ Batshuayi said on Tuesday night.
A season at Palace is a chance for Batshuayi not only to show he can regularly perform in the Premier League but also to cement a spot in Belgium’s squad for next summer’s delayed European Championship.
Palace fans will also have fond memories of Batshuayi’s previous time in south London.
At their peak with him in their side, Palace were third in the Premier League’s form table. Batshuayi’s five Premier League goals also contributed to Palace’s 51 top-flight haul in the 2018-19 season.
Last season Palace’s biggest weakness was the number of goals they scored. Only Norwich, who finished bottom, scored fewer (26) than Palace’s 31. A 14th-placed finish was largely down to Palace’s strong defensive record.
Having Batshuayi in the side won’t plug the gap alone but it will help make them more dangerous in attacking areas.
Batshuayi, Zaha and Ayew make a potent trio and together they can give Palace the necessary firepower to aim for a position that matches Hodgson’s ambition.
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