Chelsea are just beginning to show signs of life in the Premier League.
The Blues started the season with three defeats in their first five games, slumping into the bottom half of the table.
Many expected it to be a brief blip, but the early-season gloom has taken some time to lift. With 14 games played, they still have only 15 points on the board.
There have been issues off the field – the Eva Carneiro affair, Jose Mourinho’s tetchy mood – but the players must also shoulder their share of the blame. The defence has been nowhere near as solid as it was last term, while Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas have been far from their best.
Then there is Diego Costa , who has looked a shadow of the player who destroyed opposition players in the opening weeks of the 2014/15 campaign.
The Spain international has never been a shrinking violet but these days he seems to spend more time scrapping with centre-backs than doing his actual job. His only goals since the start of September have come at home to Maccabi Tel Aviv, Aston Villa and Norwich.
He also appears to have got himself into Mourinho’s bad books by reacting badly to being left on the bench at the weekend. Some feel the writing is already on the wall.
Unfortunately for Chelsea , they don’t have the striking options to cover for Costa. Loic Remy is back-up material at best. Radamel Falcao is a non-entity. Against Spurs, it was left to Hazard to play as a roaming false nine.
It’s possible, then, that the Stamford Bridge club will be tempted to dip into the market in January in search of guaranteed goals. Thomas Muller has already been linked with a switch to west London.
Here are seven other options they could consider:
1. Gonzalo Higuain
With all due respect to Napoli, who are currently in sensation form in Serie A, it is hard to understand why Higuain is not playing for one of Europe’s elite clubs.
Sure, he’s not the most naturally athletic player out there. He might not be the best penalty taker in the world. But look at his goal record. Higuain’s league tallies in the last seven seasons read 22, 27, 10 (in 16 starts), 22, 16, 17, 18. That’s significantly more than a goal every other game.
This season, he has 12 in 14. But what’s most remarkable is the sheer variety: from close-range prods to crackerjack drives and curling beauties, Higuain can score all kinds of goals. He’s deadly with both feet and decent in the air, too.
The stumbling block could be in the dugout: Mourinho managed the Argentine at Real Madrid and wasn’t always the most complementary about his work rate. But with ten other players tracking back doggedly, the mercurial Higuain could surely be indulged.
2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Robert Lewandowski might have hogged the headlines with his five-goal salvo and impressive form in the Champions League, but he is not the most in-form attacker in Germany right now.
That honour falls to Aubameyang, who has 17 goals in 14 Bundesliga games for Borussia Dortmund and looks nigh-on unstoppable.
Pacy, direct and cool in front of goal, the Gabonese hitman is the centrepiece of Thomas Tuchel’s attack and would likely cost an arm and a leg given his improvement since moving from Saint-Etienne. But Chelsea don’t lack for cash…
3. Alexandre Lacazette
The best striker in France last season, Lacazette was linked with all manner of clubs in the summer but remained at Lyon. His slow start to the campaign – which culminated in some fans turning against him – must have had him wondering if he made the right choice.
But there were mitigating factors: the whole team was playing poorly and Lacazette lost his chief supply line when Nabil Fekir got injured. Plus the arrival of Claudio Beauvue seemed to unsettle him a touch.
The Frenchman’s class, though, is beyond doubt. While not a target man in the Costa mould, he is a busy, industrious player who puts away the chances that come his way. He would also offer more to Chelsea’s build-up play.
4. Michy Batshuayi
Talking about being thrown in at the deep end. When Marseille sold Andre-Pierre Gignac last summer, Batshuayi went from rising star to main man at the Velodrome at the age of 21.
Initially used a super sub, the former Standard Liege forward netted nine times in his first Ligue 1 campaign, and has already beaten that tally four months into the season.
The Belgian has good positional sense, meaning he often finds himself at the right place at the right time. He’s also a skilful, elusive runner capable of stretching the play.
5. Luiz Adriano
The Brazilian swapped Shakhtar Donetsk for AC Milan in the summer and looked destined to form an unstoppable attacking partnership with fellow new boy Carlos Bacca.
But after netting in the Rossoneri’s first home league game against Empoli, Luiz Adriano has failed to kick on, finding himself on the bench in recent games.
That’s bad news for him, but it does mean there could be a bargain to be had. The 28-year-old proved himself to be a ruthless finisher at Shakhtar, both domestically and on the continent. With Milan not in Europe, he wouldn’t be cup tied for Chelsea’s Champions League campaign either.
6. Mauro Icardi
The Argentine has been linked with Chelsea before and his name is likely to be in the mix again if they decide Costa is not the long-term solution.
Icardi is your archetypal poacher: he might not get involved in build-up play too often but he comes alive in the penalty area and is a cold-blooded finisher with either foot.
7. Antoine Griezmann
While not an out-and-out centre-forward, Griezmann is fast becoming the kind of all-action attacking force that would grace any side.
The diminutive Frenchman has pace to burn, plus dancing feet and a knack for finding the corners with his shots. He has been playing through the middle for Atletico Madrid with devastating results: he bagged 22 goals in La Liga last term.
He won’t lead the line in the traditional sense, but if Chelsea want their own version of a Lionel Messi-style talisman, he could be the man for the job. Provided Roman Abramovich has £60million or so lurking down the back of the sofa, that is.