Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has said striker Alvaro Morata still has a future at Stamford Bridge despite being left out of the squad that beat Premier League champions Manchester City 2-0 on Saturday.
It was the first league squad that Morata has missed altogether since Sarri took over as Chelsea chief, but the Italian spoke to the media after and put the omission of the club's £58 million signing down to tactics:
"I think it is normal, it was a choice for this kind of match.
"I don't know if in Brighton we will play in the same way or not, maybe not. I don't know. I think Alvaro is able to understand that it is only a tactical decision, it is not the final choice.
"We thought yesterday that for the first time in the season that there was a possibility to have more spaces - so we wanted to try with Eden—because for the first time there was a possibility to play on the counter-attack."
Sarri went on to hail the front three of Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro and said that trio were "really very suitable" and a "very good option" given the fixture, signalling Morata may be left out more in future.
Hazard was tried as a false nine by Sarri's predecessor, Antonio Conte, though he looked more at ease in the role on Saturday when Chelsea ended City's unbeaten start to the Premier League campaign.
Sarri commented on Morata's omission in less detail at the time, and Chelsea writer Dan Levene interpreted that to mean Olivier Giroud sits ahead of the Spaniard in the striker pecking order:
Being rested for the biggest fixtures—regardless of what the coach's tactics may be—isn't typical for an elite striker, and it seems Morata faces a fight to win back Sarri's favour after failing to score in his last four league games.
Not even 18 months have passed since Chelsea shelled out £58 million plus add-ons to sign Morata from Real Madrid, and yet pundit Jamie Carragher wrote in his most recent Telegraph column it may already be time to move on:
Giroud, 32, gives Sarri an experienced option in attack, one who won the 2018 FIFA World Cup with France in July. The Italian isn't obliged to play either forward, each of whom was already at the club before he joined. Morata has a contract until 2022, while Giroud's deal is set to expire in June.
It may be more pragmatic to rely on the more seasoned Giroud if Sarri trusts the Frenchman more, although Michael Owen recently appeared on BT Sport and suggested neither player is up to scratch:
The Blues travel to Hungarian outfit Vidi in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday before they make their way to Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday, and both games could be prime opportunities for Morata to start.