Batshuayi's unerring eye for goal is earning young charge a second chance
The sun blazed away, blue glitter shimmered around Stamford Bridge and the Premier League trophy was hoisted aloft by a jubilant Chelsea team. Factor in an emotional send off for the club's most successful captain, together with a handsome 5-1 win over Sunderland and there is a good case to be made for saying that Sunday was almost the perfect day.
With nothing of material value left to be decided on the pitch, Chelsea already confirmed as champions and Sunderland stranded at the foot of the table, the only meaningful target appeared to be the quest for 30 league wins in a 38-game season. Given the disparity in the respective club's fortunes and confidence levels, that was all but assured prior to kickoff. But there was one aspect of the game that must surely have given Antonio Cone food for thought.
On the face of it, Michy Batshuayi's late brace might be considered as nothing more than a buoyant team rubbing their bedraggled opponents' faces in it. The cherry on a glorious cake. For Batshuayi, however, his contribution on Sunday might just have changed the immediate trajectory of his Chelsea career. His two goals meant that he scored for a third game in succession and had netted five times in just 236 minutes of Premier League football. Although admittedly a small sample size, it means he has scored every 47 minutes he has been on the pitch, a rate that might even see the absurdly prolific Lionel Messi raise an eyebrow.
There is clearly no further analogy to be drawn between the young Belgium international and the Argentina genius and those goals must also be taken in some context. Each of the five were scored against opponents that Chelsea would expect to beat, with two against Watford, two against Sunderland and one versus West Bromwich Albion. The recent games against Watford and Sunderland were also meaningless with nothing tangible on the line.
That said, it was Batshuayi's goal that ultimately clinched the title at The Hawthorns on a night that saw many of his teammates struggling to penetrate an obdurate defence. His goal at Vicarage Road last August was an 80th-minute equaliser -- just seven minutes after being introduced as a substitute -- and paved the way for his team to turn a deficit into an eventual 2-1 win.
Although Conte has doubted Batshuayi's ability to do his bidding for almost the entirety of the season, the 23-year-old has some positive attributes that cannot be ignored. For starters, he has that predatory instinct that all good strikers have. He is always on the move looking for space to exploit and is never shy about having a strike at goal, an indication of that a crucial asset in a scorer: self-belief. When his team is on the attack, Batshuayi also rarely strays from between the width of the posts, ensuring that he is in a good position to score should the ball find its way into the danger area.
While Diego Costa's all-round game is exceptional and his ability to occupy an entire back four by himself is peerless in the Premier League, it does mean he is often absent from the six-yard box when the ball is fizzed across begging to be tapped in. Batshuayi provides a counterbalance to that. He cannot replicate Costa's snarling physicality and his dependence on good service means he is unlikely to ever recreate the Spain international's knack of scoring out of nowhere. But he does provide an alternative approach, one that is best utilised when trying to break down stubborn opponents much like the teams that he's scored against.
There has been plenty of talk concerning Chelsea's forward line, with rumours over Costa's potential departure circulating for several months and given more weight by what appeared to be a wave goodbye to the crowd from the forward when he was substituted on Sunday. Batshuayi's future has also seemed destined to lie away from west London, with both loan and permanent moves mooted.
But given that he has displayed an unerring eye for goal, might Conte now be tempted to given his young charge a second chance? His scoring record certainly suggests he deserves the opportunity, plus it would also mean that perhaps only one striker can be sought in the summer transfer window rather than two. That in itself would free up considerable resources that could be deployed elsewhere in the squad while taking advantage of the year's acclimatisation that Batshuayi has now had in England.
One swallow does not make a summer and a few goals at the end of a title-winning campaign do not suddenly transform him into Chelsea's lead striker. There is much in his game that he still needs to improve. But Batshuayi clearly knows where the back of the net is and that is the most valuable asset of all.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.