Batshuayi needs time and patience; criticism feels unfair
At the beginning of a tough, congested run of fixtures, Chelsea's 6-0 romp against Qarabag in their Champions League opener was the perfect boost. The Blues barely needed to break sweat to see off the competition debutants, meaning much energy was kept in reserve for Sunday's visit of Arsenal.
With two of the summer arrivals, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Davide Zappacosta, scoring their first goals for the club and three others netting their first of the season, pretty much everybody will have been satisfied with their night's work. Except, perhaps, for Michy Batshuayi.
Asked to lead the line while record signing Alvaro Morata took the night off, Batshuayi applied himself gamely without ever causing the opposition too many problems. With Morata virtually guaranteed to start every big game, this was a chance for his striker teammate to stake a claim for the lesser fixtures. Although he linked well with his fellow attackers, especially Willian, he had few sights on goal against a defence that was nowhere near Champions League standard.
As the game wore on, any error from was greeted with groans from the stands despite the fact that he executed an excellent finish from the one opening that he had. Demands are high at Stamford Bridge and some supporters felt as if he was not up to the task. That may or may not be true but, either way, it is not really his fault; Batshuayi has had a difficult time since joining, with little faith placed in him by the management and time on the pitch scarce as a result.
Despite arriving for £33 million from Marseille last summer, he has started just 10 games over a 13-month period and only once has he been in the side for consecutive matches. It goes without saying that those rare outings allow nowhere near enough time to establish an on-field rapport with the rest of his teammates.
Consider Morata's displays, which are getting better with every match, largely because he is spending time playing in Chelsea's system. But while his goal output has been excellent, it hasn't been all plain sailing; his difficult debut in the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal, when he fluffed a good chance and shot wide in the penalty shootout, was followed by a forgettable display in the 2-1 win at Tottenham. Nobody rushed to judge on those aberrations and as the weeks pass Morata's quality shows.
This is not to say Batshuayi's appearances have not warranted criticism. His abject performance in the 3-2 defeat to Burnley, when he looked as if he had never seen a football before, was a particular lowlight. Even so, everyone was poor that day with the exception of Willian, so it would be unfair to single him out.
It should also be remembered that the 23-year-old has made some rather vital impacts in his short stay. It was his flick header that created the winner in the opening day win over West Ham last season and his equaliser that helped turn around the game at Watford a week later.
Batshuayi made key contributions in both of the moves that resulted in Willian's two set-piece goals during the 4-2 win over Tottenham in the FA Cup. And of course he was the only one to find a way through West Bromwich Albion's defence and score the goal that won Chelsea last season's Premier League title.
Perhaps one of the explanations for his erratic displays -- where he can look spritely and destructive one minute before being all knees and elbows the next -- is due to confidence. It cannot help that, even when the No. 1 striker is unavailable, he is still overlooked when it comes to team selection. In Diego Costa's absences last season, Eden Hazard was asked to lead the line and that cannot have had any positive effect.
Often when he is brought on from the bench or is given a rare start, it looks like Batshuayi is trying too hard to impress by showcasing various tricks and flicks, rather than just getting the basics right. This might be one reason for his regular omission but it also might be a consequence of trying to catch the manager's eye.
Batshuayi is not as gifted as Hazard or Morata but he could still become an integral part of the squad if allowed the same time to integrate that has been afforded to others. With the return of European football it is possible that he will get further opportunity to prove himself. Maybe then his true level will become apparent. Until then though, he deserves a little patience.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.