Michy Batshuayi enjoy special moment in season of struggle to seal Chelsea title

If it felt like the moment was never going to come for Chelsea on the night, it must have felt like the moment was never going to come for Batshuayi at all

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The Independent Football

After Michy Batshuayi had put the ball in the net in such wonderfully rugged fashion, Cesc Fabregas put the young striker’s season in the most elementarily elegant fashion.

“The beauty of football!” the playmaker enthused, after his side’s title-securing 1-0 win away to West Brom. “A player who didn’t play a lot scores the winning goal for the championship.

“I thought it was going to be one of those days. We had so many chances in the first half and then we got a bit nervous.”

If it felt like the moment was never going to come for Chelsea on the night, it must have felt like the moment was never going to come for Batshuayi’s time at Stamford Bridge.

It instead ended up being one of those special moments for the young Belgian, one of those potentially career-making strikes, and one that will always make the Stamford Bridge crowd remember him regardless of what happens in his future.

This was testament to his belief, his perseverance, and also to Antonio Conte’s faith in the player and willingness to gamble.

If the latter sounds exaggerated, the exact details of that campaign indicate otherwise. It did feel like a gamble because, for so long, Conte didn’t seem to have any faith in him whatsoever.

5 key moments that won Chelsea the title

That is stated by the stats. Batshuayi has only played 129 minutes across 18 league appearances, and none of them were for more than 19 minutes. All of them came from the bench, as he didn’t start a single game, despite being the only other striker in a season when Diego Costa typically experienced controversy and the occasional question over his fitness.

The truth was that it didn’t look like Conte fancied him all that much. The Italian would often seek to play Eden Hazard or Pedro ahead of Batshuayi, and eight of those appearances lasted less than four minutes.

The reality from the training ground was a bit more complex. Those close to the Chelsea squad say Batshuayi’s main problem was that he just didn’t seem to be following Conte’s instructions for his position, that he kept making the same mistakes. They could see his obvious talent, but couldn’t see any progress. They just couldn’t see him giving the side what they wanted.

Batshuayi himself was getting frustrated, but creditably never let it get to him. He maintained the same cheery personality; always joking, always happy, always supporting his teammates.

That endearing persistence could be seen at the Hawthorns, as could something else everyone on the training ground always talks of: the natural quality of his finishing. He just has that instinct, that inherent ability to know how to put the ball in the net. It was how he scored 21 goals in 38 games in his last season at Standard Liege as a 20-year-old, why he scored 17 in 36 in his last season at Marseille as a 22-year-old, and why Chelsea were willing to pay £33m for him.

It was also why Conte was willing to put him on at such a point, when the champions-elect needed a goal, with just 14 minutes left. That actually represented Batshuayi’s fourth longest league appearance of the season, but was enough to finally showcase that talent.

This winning goal was a classic example of it, reminiscent of the type of close-range strike that Ruud van Nistelrooy and Didier Drogba used to claim. It was a little scruffy, but came from supreme awareness and movement, and had enough on it to get past Ben Foster.

“Michy paid me a lot with this change!” Conte laughed after the game. “It was great” He also repaid the faith finally shown in him. He showed why he’s worth persisting it. He showed the little beauties of football.

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