Diego who? Alvaro Morata scores stunning hat trick in Chelsea rout
STOKE, England -- Three thoughts on Stoke 0-4 Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday:
1. Morata banishes memories of Costa
Alvaro Morata took his Chelsea tally to six Premier League goals with a hat trick in the 4-0 win at Stoke and the timing was key for the Spain forward.
With Diego Costa finally securing his move back to Atletico Madrid on Thursday, there are no more unwanted distractions at Chelsea regarding the combustible centre-forward.
But it also means Morata is the undisputed No. 9 at Stamford Bridge and the club's success, or otherwise, will largely be down to how many goals he scores.
He arrived at Chelsea as second choice after top target Romelu Lukaku chose instead to join Manchester United -- United had been expected to sign Morata until they were told they could win the race for Lukaku.
But although he was not Conte's No.1 option, Morata is showing he can become the main man at Chelsea after having failed to do so at Juventus and Real Madrid.
His first two goals at Stoke were those of a striker brimming with confidence, two classy finishes having broken behind the defence. The hat trick goal was a typical centre-forward's effort, with a predatory tap-in from 6 yards.
He may not possess the anger, passion and all-round nuisance value of Costa, but Morata is a silkier striker, oozing class and movement.
And perhaps now Costa has gone for good, and his shadow gone with him, Morata can kick on and show that his early season form is more than just a good start.
Morata returns to Madrid this week with Chelsea facing Atletico in the Champions League, so what better place to display his current form? Costa is likely to be watching his replacement from the stands at the Wanda Metropolitano.
2. Smart Conte saves Alonso with City looming
Conte made a crucial intervention early in the second half to save Marcos Alonso from what appeared to be an inevitable sending off at the bet365 Stadium.
The Spanish wing-back had been booked for a foul on Joe Allen before then committing a reckless foul on Stoke forward Mame Diouf less than two minutes later.
With the home crowd incensed and demanding action, referee Mike Dean showed leniency by sparing Alonso from a second booking, instead choosing to warn the player he was walking a tightrope and that the next foul would result in a red card.
Alonso could have had no complaints had he been shown a second yellow, but Conte was not prepared to take any chances with Chelsea due to face Manchester City at Stamford Bridge next Saturday.
With David Luiz already ruled out of that game due to a three-match ban following his red card against Arsenal last week, the risk of losing Alonso as well was too great for Conte to contemplate.
Alonso is crucial to Chelsea's game plan and Conte has no credible alternative, so his decision to replace him with Gary Cahill on the hour snuffed out the possibility of Alonso picking up another card and a costly suspension.
Still, Alonso almost fell afoul of Dean seconds before being replaced, with the defender foolishly taking a throw-in when the referee had already signalled it as a Stoke ball.
Alonso got away with it again, but he can thank his manager for saving him from bigger trouble.
3. Crouch shows Stoke should play to their strengths
Mark Hughes is attempting to alter perceptions at Stoke City by moving the club away from the old image of long ball and overly physical tactics, but this defeat against Chelsea showed there is still a place for some of the more one-dimensional thinking.
Jese, who scored an impressive debut winner against Arsenal last month, was anonymous against Chelsea and it wasn't until Peter Crouch entered the action midway through the second half that Stoke began to hurt the champions.
With the former England forward leading the frontline, Stoke became more direct and began to ask questions of the Chelsea defence, but it was too late.
At times, though, Stoke were guilty of overplaying and they were far too easy for Chelsea to deal with.
The days of Stoke operating with Rory Delap's long throw-ins are gone, but there is still a time and a place for the kind of approach which unsettles even the best teams.
By smoothing off their rough edges, Hughes risks making his team little more than a pale imitation of their top-class opponents.
Crouch is ungainly, awkward and not very easy on the eye, but he is effective and Stoke probably need to use him more often.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_