We’re not quite there… yet

It’s now four league fixtures against the Top 6 (and Leicester) where Chelsea have failed to record a win this season. In each of these games we’ve seen glimpses, as well as some extended periods of play, of what this team is capable of. Yesterday evening it was much of the same, but there was a profound difference in the performance when compared to our previous 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City in February.

The Match

Chelsea dominated the opening half an hour of play, and deservedly went ahead through N’Golo Kanté in the 21st minute. After some quick passing between Jorginho and Mateo Kovačić around the Manchester City midfielders, the latter flew the ball over the sky blue backline and it was picked up by the ever-running N’Golo Kanté. The plucky Frenchman was able to push the ball through Ederson and it was 1-0. Having been three goals down by this point in the fixture last season, Frank Lampard’s impact on this side cannot be doubted.

With this fantastic start, it was easy to forget Chelsea were playing a side who have amassed a 199 points in the last two seasons. The London visiter’s were quickly reminded after a loose ball found itself at Kevin De Bruyne’s feet. His shot, whilst not initially challenging, deflected off of Kurt Zouma’s leg and Kepa could do nothing to prevent the ball nestling in the back of the net. Eight minutes later, things got worse.

Riyad Mahrez picked up the ball on the right wing and shimmied beyond Ederson before placing the ball beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga. Not being the tallest keeper in the world, the Spaniard didn’t really stand much of a chance of stopping the shot. Emerson, one of the brighter sparks in the Chelsea squad this season, had a poor game and offered little resistance when it came to stopping Mahrez.

The score could’ve so easily been 3-1 at half-time. Some awful play from Kepa saw him give the ball straight to Sergio Aguero, thankfully his shot hit the bar but Chelsea were lucky not to be punished further.

Chelsea could’ve picked up a second goal a few times and both Kanté and Tomori had good chances but were ultimately unable to capitalise on them. Another shocking VAR decision in the 93rd minute prevented Raheem Sterling from making it 3-1 but their 2-1 win was deserved and keeps the title race alive.

Quite how this goal was disallowed I’m not sure, Sterling’s shoulder appeared to be offside by centimetres at most. Once again, why was the pitchside monitor not reviewed by Atkinson?

Talking Points

Fullbacks –

This is an area of the team which I feel has, at times, significantly held the side back at times in the season. Emerson was extremely poor yesterday and it was so frustrating to see Frank Lampard effectively waste a sub in order to get him off and give Reece James a runout. Furthermore, despite playing better recently, César Azpilicueta does not offer the attacking contributions which some modern fullbacks are capable of. Being the club captain, the leadership and experience he provides makes him an extremely difficult player to drop.

If CAS overturn Chelsea’s transfer ban in time for January, Ben Chilwell of Leicester should be a top priority for the blues. With him and Reece James running up the wings, in a few years Chelsea may have a fullback partnership to rival Liverpool’s.

Goalkeepers

From the high standards he set last season, Kepa has frankly not been good enough this year. A lot of the early goals we conceded in the season were as a result of defence mistakes and he wasn’t really at fault for them. Recently however, his form has been extremely poor and only VAR prevented him from conceding a third yesterday. His wrists seem limp and any shot of real power stands a good chance at beating him, with rumours of Lampard wanting Shay Given as his Goalkeeping Coach, string’s must be pulled to get the Irishman in over Henrique Hilario. An unremarkable keeper during his time at the club, I find it strange he has now found himself being given the role of Head Goalkeeping Coach at the club.

Massimo Nenci followed Maurizo Sarri to Juventus and it hardly seems surprising that the form of Wojciech Szczęsny has remarkably improved since this.

Final Thoughts

As I said earlier, once again Chelsea found themselves slightly hard done by with regards to the final score in a big game this season. Indeed, Chelsea even managed to have 53% possession compared to Manchester City’s 47%. This is the first time that Pep Guardiola has failed to have a majority on possession in a game and yet still win. Ultimately, losing 2-1 away to City is certainly not a bad result and with a huge game at the Mestalla on Wednesday, Chelsea have the perfect chance to bounce back.

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