LONDON – Just over a month ago, Chelsea striker Álvaro Morata showed a low expression and seemed devoid of self-confidence.
Not trusting back to the goal and the ball at his feet, it seemed that Chelsea's creators Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro preferred to work with Olivier Giroud's more stable and less fuel-efficient figure as a target at the front.
There were media speculation that Chelsea, unsure if they could keep the English Premier League title with an attacker who did not score, would be leaving Morata in the January transfer window.
The transformation has been extraordinary in the last four weeks.
Morata proved to be fierce, busy and hungry on Sunday by scoring four goals in four league games, one more than in his previous 23 appearances in the competition, with two goals in Chelsea's 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace .
"I'm very happy for Alvaro," said Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri. "He has improved in the last month in confidence and personality. He has also improved from a tactical and technical point of view."
Sarri believes Morata is finally showing the form that has convinced Chelsea to pay a record 60 million pounds ($ 78 million) to try to knock out the Spanish striker for Real Madrid 18 months ago.
"Potentially it can be (one of the best attackers)," Sarri said. "He has a great physical and technological potential, he can improve more, sometimes he's a bit fragile."
Hazard also seems pleased with Morata's recent resurgence. The Belgian striker had a grin when he hugged his team-mate after scoring a free kick that resulted in Morata's second goal against the Palace.
Morata almost finished with three goals but was unable to lift the ball over Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey when he was knocked out in the final moments.
"I could have done a hat trick, so it was not the perfect day," Morata said. "I'm getting better and I want to continue to help my team win." It's very difficult because the Premier League is the most competitive league in the world, and when you have a poor season, it takes a long time to recover. It's good to be scoring. "
Former Manchester City manager Mark Hughes knew his Southampton team was in trouble at Etihad Stadium when two of the opposition's smallest players were winning aerial duels in the attacking areas.
"When you have David Silva and Raheem Sterling winners in their own box, this can not happen," said Hughes after Southampton was crushed 6-1 by City League leader.
"Seeing that I was thinking, 'Come on, we need to be more aggressive, more determined, in our defensive game.'" That was a frustration for me because we talked a lot before the game about what we were going to do, but a lot quickly our game plan came out of the window.
"The city asks different questions about you, they keep knocking at your door and they pick you. You can come here and put everyone back and try to see 90 minutes, but I've done it before and I've still been beaten."
It was the twelfth time City have scored five or more goals in a league game since Pep Guardiola took over two and a half years ago. No other team has done it on more than six occasions at the same time.
Sergio Aguero became the ninth player to score 150 goals in the Premier League when he scored against Southampton. He came in his 217th appearance and only Alan Shearer, in 212 matches, reached the mark in fewer games.
The other eight who scored 150 goals in the Premier League are: Shearer (260 goals), Wayne Rooney (208), Andy Cole (187), Frank Lampard (177), Thierry Henry (175), Robbie Fowler . (162) and Michael Owen (150).
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