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  • By Yann Tear

One-sided cup clash offers easiest of starts for Chelsea newcomer Higuain

Gonzalo Higuain Photo by Paul Lagan

Not so much the bullying figure of Diego Costa, Didier Drogba, or if we go a little further back in time, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, but the hope is there that Gonzalo Higuain will supply some of the devil which has sometimes been missing this season.

It remains to be seen whether Chelsea’s mid-winter recruit from Italian football will bring the goals which eluded Alvaro Morata, and which have proved so hard to come by for World Cup winner Olivier Giroud.

But his experience and presence may at least persuade boss Maurizio Sarri to abandon the use of Eden Hazard as an out-of-position striker and return the Belgian to the inside-left channels where he does so much more damage.

Higuain’s English baptism was as traditional as it gets – with a massive, noisy away presence in the FA Cup launching ‘What a waste of money’ chants at him, at every opportunity.

Championship side Sheffield Wednesday were ready to test his mental strengths, maybe, if not his technical ones.

As one of three outfield Chelsea players wearing gloves, the hope among home fans must have been that it would not turn out be a sign of indifference to putting in some hard yards – but his first outing in the blue of his new team was undeniably a gentle sort of workout.

There were hints of the nous that has made him so prolific over the years in Serie A – the Argentinian adept at winning himself a yard of space with good positioning and touch. But the menace was a little subdued on his first appearance, which is excusable, as he settles in to his new surroundings.

There was a good chance early on. A spin onto a fine pass into the box from Mateo Kovacic, ending with shot across the face of goal which arrowed past the far post. He was almost found with another chip from Kovacic and glanced a header narrowly wide after being picked out by Ethan Ampadu.

And yet, this being the Premier League, it was the charge down of a Wednesday defender’s clearance – which had no greater consequence than a goal-kick to the visitors - which brought the throatiest roars of approval from home fans. Never mind the goals, how good are you at hounding opponents?

He came off to warm applause 10 minutes from time – goalless but probably happy enough with his first foray into the helter-skelter world of English football.

They say the unrelenting pace of the game here is often the single factor which can undermine even the most gifted of technical strikers and the mystifying failures of fine players like Morata and Fernando Torres - for so much of his time at Stamford Bridge - underlines that success can never be taken for granted.

There have been suggestions that he may be past his best now. That he goes missing in the biggest matches, and at 31, it is maybe late in the day to expect an old dog to learn new tricks. But Sarri will look upon this as a gamble with little to lose, as he attempts to extract the same excellence out of Higuain that he managed when the pair worked together at Napoli.

It should be an interesting loan spell for all parties concerned.

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