Connect with us

Chelsea

Chelsea’s Fearsome Fortnight

Published

on

The only sound that resonated louder than the groans from the Shed End on Saturday evening was the cheering emanating from Anfield and The Etihad. The piercing blow of the referee’s whistle brought with it José Mourinho’s first ever home defeat as Chelsea manager in either spell. This becomes more astounding when you realise that he had also not lost at home during his time as Porto or Inter head coach. Yet more remarkable still, was that this heaviest of blows came at the hands of lowly Sunderland; bottom of the league and relegation had been looming as a greater probability with each passing week. Not exactly the perfect preparation then for a season-defining trio of matches taking place over just 8 days.

The first match approaching fast on the horizon is the trip to Spain to face up to Atletico Madrid; the surprise package of the La Liga season and real title contenders. Chelsea players will need to recover quickly both physically and mentally from the demoralising defeat at home to Sunderland. They were certainly not without chances, and for spells throughout the game did indeed pepper Mannone’s goal, but as has been all too frequent an occurrence for Chelsea, the pressure did not translate into goals. Ivanovic had a header deflected onto the bar from a corner and Ramires could only head wide when under significant pressure from Seb Larsson.

They would go on to rue those missed chances and that lack of a cutting edge severely hampered their chances of victory. In order to progress to the Champions League final, these issues cannot be allowed to reappear. Atletico have a very solid spine to their team which is a fine blend of youthful exuberance and the experience of older heads. Courtois; likely to feature against his parent club, has been a rock between the sticks, Godin has had a new lease of life at centre-back, Tiago patrols central midfield excellently, and Diego Costa is simply lethal. The flair possessed by the Spanish league leaders will ensure that missed opportunities will be punished, and they themselves are unlikely to gift Chelsea anything at the other end. Nothing less than Mourinho’s tactical brilliance and motivational prowess will be required.

One option at José’s disposal is to cleverly use the presence of cup-tied players in the squad to his advantage. Both Nemanja Matic and Mohammed Salah are unable to play for Chelsea in the Champions League due to their appearances in this season’s group stage for Benfica and F.C. Basel respectively. Therefore, they can play no part at all in either mid-week fixture and so should be amongst the freshest for the trip to Anfield. Chelsea’s formation and play-style demands energetic performances from the central midfield and wide players as Mourinho demands that they fulfil their defensive duties in addition to joining in with the attack.

As has been the trend recently, Lampard and David Luiz will most likely form the solid base to their midfield against Atletico with Matic returning to face Liverpool. Salah should also play a role from the start on Sunday as he will inject pace and enthusiasm to whichever forward role he is deployed in. Eden Hazard; Chelsea’s brilliant Belgian, will be touch and go as to whether he features against Atletico. Since damaging his lower calf in the early stages of The Blues’ second leg triumph against PSG, he has not trained. I am sure that José will give his star man every opportunity to play as, following the home defeat to Sunderland, he may see the Champions League as the best bet for silverware. His sharpness will inevitably not be to his usual high levels having had no match practice, but an appearance as a 60th minute substitute may well be on the cards. Even at 75%, the tricky winger has the ability to change any game.

The trip to Spain on Tuesday may only be a short one in terms of actual distance travelled, but depending on the outcome, it could prove to be highly draining for all players concerned. Anything other than a positive result during the week, combined with the loss to Sunderland, will have a drastic effect on squad morale. With Liverpool riding high after their hard-fought 3-2 victory at Norwich, they will be in a confident mood when Chelsea come to Anfield this Sunday. Regardless of mid-week events, José surely has to field his strongest possible eleven. Any indication that the Champions League tie is being prioritised will only serve to heap further unwanted pressure on the return leg.

As has been correctly noted on several occasions this season by the Chelsea boss, Liverpool do not have mid-week commitments to tire them out or distract their minds and so can have a week of dedicated training and recuperation. Mourinho has repeatedly drawn attention to the advantage this has brought them, and it may be the difference on Sunday. Sturridge could return to face his old team; fit and ready to prove a point, and the trickery and pace of Coutinho and Sterling could be the undoing of the tiring legs in Chelsea’s defence.

It is not inconceivable that The Blues will play host to Atletico next Tuesday having lost 3 games on the bounce. Should this be the case, and then be compounded by a Champions League exit and Stamford Bridge, their season would effectively be over. I am sure that this point will have been hammered home by Mourinho and his staff to the players. The importance of this 8 day period cannot be overestimated; not only is it season-defining for sure, but it could also determine the calibre of player recruited in the summer and so have a knock-on effect for seasons to come. I personally cannot wait to see how it all plays out, as it certainly promises a highly dramatic fortnight in the world of football.

I am currently at university studying Mechanical Engineering, but in my spare time I'm into all things football. I'm an avid Liverpool fan but always try to remain impartial. My other interests include gaming and Formula One.

Chelsea

Chelsea 0-0 Leicester City: Three talking points from Stamford Bridge

Rob Meech

Published

on

Chelsea
Photo: Reuters

Chelsea remain winless in 2018 after Antonio Conte’s misfiring charges recorded their third successive goalless draw.

Despite having a numerical advantage for the final 20 minutes following Ben Chilwell’s red card, the Blues could not find a winning goal against a Leicester City side that enjoyed prolonged spells of dominance.

Chelsea have now played more than 270 minutes of football in all competitions without scoring and have dropped to fourth place in the Premier League table as a result of Liverpool’s victory over Manchester City. Leicester remain eighth and continue their good form since Claude Puel’s appointment as manager.

Here are three talking points…

Chelsea’s goal scoring problems are mounting

Much has been written about Alvaro Morata’s goalscoring drought, which extended to five matches after he failed to register a single effort in this clash, but Chelsea’s goalscoring issues go much deeper.

Since the 2-2 draw against Arsenal on January 3, the Blues have failed to find the back of the net. None of the top six clubs have scored fewer than Chelsea’s current tally of 41 Premier League goals for the season.

There is no doubt the burden has rested heavily on Morata and when he was in fine form during the first few months of the campaign, Chelsea were often rampant. But the Spaniard’s barren spell has coincided with a downturn in the Blues’ effectiveness.

The problem for Conte is he has little faith in back-up striker Michy Batshuayi. There is no other obvious candidate to act as the focal point, although the Italian has previously experimented with a false number nine.

Defensively, Chelsea are very solid, but that counts for little when they fail to score.

Leicester grab a point despite Chilwell’s red

It’s not often a player receives two yellow cards in a matter of minutes, but that’s exactly the fate that befell Leicester’s Ben Chilwell.

After being cautioned for a foul on Willian, the Leicester man then received a second booking only five minutes later for bringing down Victor Moses.

Both fouls were fairly innocuous and Chilwell’s dismissal disrupted the Foxes’ performance, which had threatened to claim all three points at Stamford Bridge.

Leicester boss Puel was critical of Mike Jones’ decision to send off Chilwell, which may have come under more scrutiny had Chelsea gone on to win the game.

As it was, the visitors held out for a point, which was the least they deserved. Jamie Vardy twice went close to breaking the deadlock and Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois had to be alert throughout.

This was definitely not a rearguard display – Leicester created numerous chances and were keen to take the game to their high-flying opponents.

Tiredness to blame – Conte

Chelsea boss Conte blamed tiredness for his side’s failure to win for the fourth game in a row. This fixture came just three days after their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal, amid a run of seven games in 21 days.

The Blues return to action again against Norwich City for an FA Cup third round replay on Wednesday night. In total, Chelsea will play eight games in January after playing nine in December.

There’s no doubt it is a punishing schedule, but Chelsea are not alone in that regard. A club with their squad depth should be able to cope. Conte has rotated his squad, particularly for the cup games, and is sure to field a much-changed side for the Norwich replay.

Of course, if the Blues were winning matches there would be no need to raise the fatigue element as an excuse.

Continue Reading

Champions League

Are Chelsea potential 2017/18 Champions League winners?

Rob Meech

Published

on

Antonio Conte will be looking to emulate his Italian counterpart Roberto di Matteo, by leading Chelsea to Champions League glory this season. The Blues’ champagne moment six years ago was the realisation of a dream Roman Abramovich had held since he gained ownership of the club in 2003.

Chelsea are the reigning Premier League champions, having claimed the title in Conte’s first campaign in charge. But the former Italy boss’s honeymoon period is now over, amid a run of mixed results and speculation of player unrest. Here, The Boot Room assesses Chelsea’s prospects of lifting the Champions League for a second time.

Performances so far

The Blues were in the same group as both Atletico Madrid and Roma – as well as minnows Qarabag – and they finished level on points with the Italian club at the top of the standings. The highlight was a 2-1 victory away to Atletico, courtesy of a stoppage-time winner from Michy Batshuayi. A routine double was completed over Qarabag, but it was their results against Roma that shaped the final standings.

Even though both clubs ended on 11 points to qualify for the last 16 and Chelsea had a vastly superior goal difference, the Blues could only follow up their 3-0 defeat in the Italian capital with a 3-3 draw at home. This proved costly, with Conte’s side finishing second and being drawn against Barcelona, which has significantly dented their chances of making it into the quarter-finals.

Squad strength

Chelsea captured the Premier League at a canter last season, thanks largely to the goals of Diego Costa and the brilliance of Eden Hazard. Despite the summer arrival of Alvaro Morata, Costa’s departure has been a big loss. Surprisingly, Nemanja Matic was permitted to join Manchester United, while David Luiz has fallen out of favour under Conte.

Antonio Rudiger, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko have added depth to the squad, while the rise to prominence of Andreas Christensen has been an unexpected bonus. Ross Barkley is the first of their signings in the January window and perhaps more will follow. Most important is proper competition for the misfiring Morata, with Chelsea currently lacking a cutting edge in tight games.

Manager

A three-time winner of Serie A with Juventus (to go alongside last season’s Premier League crown), Conte is without doubt a manager of immense repute. After Jose Mourinho’s reign had turned sour, the 48-year-old was the perfect successor. He revitalised Chelsea and turned them into champions after adopting a 3-4-3 formation that proved to be a masterstroke.

Conte has a unique style of management. His demonstrable shows of passion are loved by supporters, but his intensity has sparked rumours that he is not universally liked by his players. Costa fell foul of his wrath last summer, while Brazilian centre-back Luiz is the latest to be marginalised. Conte’s public clashes with his superiors over failed transfer targets have increased the tension.

Chances of winning

When Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, they had to beat Barcelona over two legs in the semi-finals. If they want to lift the prestigious trophy again this year, it’s a feat they will need to repeat. Although the Blues are more than capable of competing with the very best in Europe, they would much rather have avoided opponents of Barcelona’s class at this stage.

Chelsea only have themselves to blame for not topping Group C, which would likely have given them a smoother passage to the last eight. Barcelona, the runaway La Liga leaders, are by no means unbeatable, but they will be the favourites to progress and Chelsea will need to be at their very best over both games to stop them.

Continue Reading

Chelsea

Why Andreas Christensen is the future of Chelsea’s defence

Jake Jackman

Published

on

Christensen
Photo: Reuters

Andreas Christensen has been rewarded for his great form this season with a new contract at Chelsea and it looks like he is a player who the Blues want to build around for the future. The Danish international has been one of the breakthrough stars of the Premier League campaign and he is proof that there is value to the loan system used at Stamford Bridge.

It has long been criticised as the club have stockpiled talent and few have made it to the first-team. However, Antonio Conte has opened the door to those that have spent time out on loan and breaking into the first eleven is now a realistic aim.

It was a surprise when Victor Moses was given a prominent role last season, but he was the success story that gave hope to the likes of Christensen. At the beginning of this campaign, there was hope that the defender would follow in the wing-back’s footsteps, but he was initially behind David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger in the pecking order.

The 21-year-old knew that he would have to work hard to earn a regular starting spot at Stamford Bridge and he has done just that. He has looked every inch a top-six player when he has played and is now seen as part of the club’s first eleven.

Christensen has made 23 appearances this season and it was crucial that the club secured his future at the earliest opportunity. His recent four-and-a-half-year contract is justified.

BBC Sport report the following quotes from him:

“I’m just happy to be committed to Chelsea for the future. I’m enjoying it at the club and everything is working well”

Christensen has had a rapid rise to the top of the sport. The defender is already a first-team regular for a Champions League team at the age of 21. The Danish international had an excellent two years on loan with Borussia Monchengladbach.

Although the system can be abused, it can be a useful aid in developing a player if used correctly. Chelsea haven’t always been great at this, but they got it right with their talented centre-back.

At the age of 19, Christensen had a lot of potential and had already made his first-team debut at Stamford Bridge. However, he was raw and not ready to take up a prominent role in the squad.

He could have stayed around to offer competition, but the decision was taken to send him out on loan. There would have been a lot of interest in him given the hype around him at the time. Chelsea opted for the Bundesliga and Monchengladbach.

This was seen as a good standard and the league has a great reputation for developing young players. Clubs in Germany are more willing to give opportunities to those in the infancy of their careers and that is why more and more young English players are going there.

Monchengladbach immediately gave Christensen a regular starting place and he developed quickly. By the end of his first season, he was regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the division and there were Chelsea fans clamouring for his return.

The loan agreement couldn’t be broken and in hindsight, that was positive for Christensen. One problem with the loan system is that players don’t get to fully settle at a club as they know their stay is going to be a temporary one.

The defender knew that he would be at Monchengladbach for two years and that was certainly a good thing. If it is the right marriage between club and player, there is a lot to gain from a two-year loan.

During his time in Germany, Christensen played regularly in the Bundesliga and got to test himself in European competition. Considering he was planning his long-term future with Chelsea, it was important that he got used to playing a European schedule and Monchengladbach provided that.

These comments to Sky Sports show how crucial the defender thinks the loan experience was for him:

“For me personally, it was the two biggest years of my career. If it went badly I might not be here now, but because it did I am here, feeling confident and in a good spot,”

“The experience of playing in the Champions League and at the top level for two years every week helped me a lot.

“Both for the club and for me personally, the plan was always to come back into the first team.”

Sometimes a player can be loaned out as the parent club don’t know what to do with him and his career is put on the backburner. Christensen suggests that Chelsea mapped out his career path and told him exactly what he needed to do to break into the first-team.

The Blues deserve credit for that, as they gave the player a clear directive and he made sure he achieved the necessary progress while out on loan.

This season has been a breakthrough for Christensen as he has replaced David Luiz in the heart of Chelsea’s defence. That is a huge show of faith from Antonio Conte as he has taken the place of a £50 million signing and he has been full value for his spot in the team.

The 21-year-old’s greatest strength is his ability on the ball, as he has a pass success rate of 93.9% in the Premier League. In a three-man defence, it is important to have a player willing to carry the ball into midfield and the Danish international is the best in the squad at that.

David Luiz has frequently been praised for his ability on the ball, but he can be careless in possession and make costly errors that lead to goals. Despite his age, Christensen can be relied on not to do that and he has grown into his role with every game.

In addition to his quality on the ball, the young defender can compete physically as shown by his average of two successful aerial duels per game. That was a weakness of his game during his teenage years, but his loan spell allowed him to develop his skills and he is now ready for the rough and bustle of the Premier League.

Christensen isn’t an aggressive defender and he prefers to use his intelligence rather than his physicality to regain possession. He is currently averaging 2.5 ball recoveries and 3.6 clearances per game.

The Danish international is a good reader of the game and complements the rest of the defence well. There is a long way to go until he fulfils his potential, but he is on the right track and set to become a mainstay of the Chelsea team for years to come.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 The Boot Room.