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Michy Batshuayi: Chelsea striker taking his chance on loan at Borussia Dortmund
Last Updated: 23/03/18 11:19am
Michy Batshuayi struggled to win over Antonio Conte at Chelsea but he has made a flying start to life on loan at Borussia Dortmund. Nick Wright examines his big impact in the Bundesliga...
Few regarded Borussia Dortmund as the big winners of the transfer trade-off which saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi swap clubs at the end of January, but there can be little doubt that the Bundesliga side have enjoyed the best of it so far.
While Aubameyang and Giroud have impressed in patches at Arsenal and Chelsea respectively, scoring four goals in 14 appearances between them, Batshuayi has carried Dortmund almost single-handedly. In the space of six weeks, his goals have won them games against Cologne, Atalanta, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hannover. In total, he has scored eight in 11 appearances.
His impact is all the more impressive given what came before it. Batshuayi started just four Premier League games out of 63 in 18 months at Chelsea. Despite some important contributions, most notably the title-clinching goal against West Brom and the late winner at Atletico Madrid, Antonio Conte never seemed convinced.
Batshuayi felt he needed to step out of Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard's shadow and he has already described Dortmund as the "perfect" place to do it. He arrived with the promise of a starting spot and hasn't looked back since scoring twice on his debut - a 3-2 win over Cologne in which he also laid on a goal for Andre Schurrle.
Batshuayi, no longer consigned to the substitutes' bench, has played 898 minutes of a possible 990 in all competitions for Dortmund. "Here I feel the trust, which is why I can play with confidence," he told Belgian outlet Sporza last month.
Most strikers in Batshuayi's position would have required time to rebuild that confidence, but it is a testament to his character that he has managed it so quickly. The 24-year-old is playing for a place in Belgium's World Cup squad but his determination to help Dortmund's cause has made him a cult hero with the club's fans.
"Batshuayi has made a good impression," Jurgen Koers, a journalist for Ruhr Nachrichten in Dortmund, tells Sky Sports. "He integrated with the squad quickly, with no rumours or anything else besides football. He adapted easily and everybody can see that he feels good in Dortmund. No one expected him to score so frequently."
He has impressed team-mates as well as fans. "You can see how much quality he has, not just in a footballing sense, but how he focuses and focuses," said right-back Lukasz Piszczek in a recent interview with Sport1. "For him it is a new environment. But he has shown that it does not really matter to him. He wants to do his job and he suits us very well."
Batshuayi is showing why Chelsea were willing to pay £33m for him in the first place and he has allowed Dortmund to forget about Aubameyang too. The Gabon international scored goals at a formidable rate at the Westfalenstadion, but Batshuayi has matched that output so far.
There was a long-range stunner against Atalanta and a brilliantly backheeled volley against Hannover, but what's really crucial is that he is helping the team in other ways too. "Scoring goals is one thing, but working for the team and winning balls like he did for the opener [against Atalanta] makes him a great striker," said head coach Peter Stoger recently.
His off-the-ball industry is perfect for Dortmund's high-pressing style and it contrasts sharply with Aubameyang's efforts in the first half of the season. According to Opta, Batshuayi has made 13 ball recoveries in the Bundesliga so far - only three fewer than his predecessor despite playing a third as many minutes. He has already eclipsed his total for tackles.
"He knows what he has to do on the pitch," added Piszczek. "Not only scoring goals but he also defending very well. He makes it difficult for the opposing defenders to play it out from the back."
For many observers at Dortmund, Batshuayi represents an upgrade on the man he replaced. "He has now filled the gap Aubameyang left behind," says Koers. "Batshuayi is more connected to his team-mates on the pitch. He asks for the ball not only in the box, and he also has a strong body and a good header. Inside the box, he is a killer."
What happens next is uncertain. Batshuayi fits perfectly at Dortmund but they know the finances involved with signing him permanently are likely to be beyond them. "The situation hasn't changed since his signing, and certainly not to our advantage," sporting director Michael Zorc said last month. "He has become even more interesting to others."
He might have become more interesting to Chelsea too. Could Batshuayi climb above Morata and Giroud to assume a more prominent role at Stamford Bridge next season? Could a new manager give him the opportunities Conte did not? After an explosive start to life in Germany, it is no longer as improbable as it previously seemed.
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