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Chelsea 3-0 West Bromwich Albion: Three talking points from Stamford Bridge

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from Stamford Bridge as an Eden Hazard inspired Chelsea dismantled a struggling West Bromwich Albion side.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

Chelsea eased the pressure on Antonio Conte after a brace from Eden Hazard saw off basement boys West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge.

It had been a troubling week for the Blues, following back-to-back heavy defeats against Bournemouth and Watford that had cast serious doubts over Conte’s position as manager.

But Hazard netted twice, either side of a goal from Victor Moses to complete a routine victory over the Baggies, who lost loan star Daniel Sturridge to injury after just three minutes.

Chelsea leapfrog Tottenham Hotspur into fourth spot as the battle for the top four heats up, while West Brom remain seven points adrift of safety.

Here are three talking points…

Talismanic Hazard comes to the rescue again

Just days after he was voted as Belgium’s player of the year by his peers, Hazard underlined his ability as a footballer of rare class with another brace to take his tally to 11 for the season.

Chelsea’s number 10 has an excellent scoring record against West Brom, one which he improved upon with a display that was too good for the Baggies to handle.

Hazard is a talismanic performer and when he hits his straps, the rest of the team feed off him.

Hazard combined with new boy Olivier Giroud to slam home his first of the evening, which eased the tension at Stamford Bridge.

The 27-year-old added his second and rounded off the scoring late in the second half, slamming the ball past visiting keeper Ben Foster.

Back in the top four as a result of this victory, Hazard will be the key to Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

With him in their ranks, anything is possible.

Conte relieved as the pressure lifts

One man who will be extremely grateful for Hazard’s dazzling display is Conte.

The Italian seemed to be on the brink after last week’s 4-1 loss to Watford, which came hot on the heels of a similarly catastrophic result at home to Bournemouth.

Conte’s prickly demeanour and comments in press conferences had led some to speculate that he was goading the Chelsea board into sacking him, less than a year after he steered the club to the Premier League title.

Either way, it’s clear he retains the full support of the Stamford Bridge faithful, which was vocal in its support for Conte throughout the game, chanting his name with regularity.

Conte himself was typically demonstrative on the touchline, bellowing instructions and celebrating each of the goals as his players repaid him with an improved performance.

Whether he will be in the dugout next season remains to be seen, but for now at least his job is more secure than it was a week ago.

Sturridge’s World Cup audition falls flat

In front of watching England manager Gareth Southgate, Sturridge would have been hopeful of making a positive impression following his shock move to West Brom in the January window.

The Liverpool striker made the switch in order to enhance his prospects of making the World Cup squad, which will be named in little over three months’ time.

Few doubt Sturridge’s quality, but his fragile body continually struggles to hold up under the intensity of Premier League football.

His withdrawal due to a hamstring strain less than three minutes on the clock was a monumental blow, both to him personally and West Brom’s ambitions of springing a surprise against Chelsea.

Although he is expected to be sidelined for only a couple of weeks, this latest setback again raises questions over his durability.

Sturridge’s opportunities to prove he deserves to be on the plane to Russia are fast running out.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

Chelsea

Three key takeaways from Crystal Palace’s transfer window

The summer transfer window drew to a close on Thursday.

Max Cohen

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Palace
Photo: Getty Images

Crystal Palace finished deadline day with the last-minute confirmation of the loan signing of Jordan Ayew from Swansea City. The Eagles finished the window with four total signings, but only spent a total of £9.5 million.

The south Londoners made do with a tight budget and held on to their crown jewel Wilfried Zaha, resulting in a successful summer. Here are three things we learnt from Palace’s transfer business.

Don’t believe the tabloid hype

The Wilfried Zaha saga was perhaps the most drawn out transfer rumour of the entire window, and as many Palace supporters had expected, it was completely unfounded.

Despite the numerous claims that Zaha had rejected a contract, was eager to leave to a supposedly bigger club, or was itching to play Champions League football, the Ivory Coast international remained at Selhurst Park.

The winger still has four years left on his contract, has spoken publicly about his love for the club, and will again be crucial to Crystal Palace’s success this season. Still an Eagle, Zaha’s status reveals the sensationalist nature of many tabloids that aim to create unrest when none is present.

(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Doing business on a budget is difficult, but not impossible 

According to The Guardian, Palace’s transfer budget was restricted due to the high wages being paid to star players such as Mamadou Sahko and Christian Benteke. Yet, in the face of these barriers, the club managed to secure a number of canny deals at a low cost.

Ayew was brought in on loan, goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and midfielder Max Meyer were free transfers, and Cheikhou Kouyate was the only purchase of the summer at £9.5 million.

Four players of top quality for less than £10 million represents astute business, and Palace should be applauded for conducting decent deals on a shoestring budget.

(Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s absence will be felt thanks to Chelsea‘s terrible transfer policy

Crystal Palace made it no secret that they were eager to bring Ruben Loftus-Cheek back to SE25 this summer, but unfortunately for both the club and player, Chelsea refused to let him leave.

On the face of it, it was an encouraging decision for Loftus-Cheek, as he would be finally handed consistent football at his parent club. Yet the loan signing of Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid further pushes the England international down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, leaving many to wonder why Chelsea barred him from a return to Crystal Palace.

In the end, the Eagles will miss his presence in midfield and will undoubtedly be frustrated to watch Loftus-Cheek wasting away on the Chelsea bench.

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One to watch: Derby County’s 19-year-old midfielder Mason Mount

Introducing The Boot Room’s 2018/19 One to Watch series…

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Mason Mount
Photo: Getty Images

Mason Mount has arrived on loan at Derby County as a well-known quantity.

The Englishman spent a number of successful years in Chelsea’s youth academy, featuring under the Rams’ new assistant coach Jody Morris.

As a Blue, his progress has also been closely monitored by Derby’s new manager Frank Lampard, who was keen to bring Mount on loan after his stunning season in the Eredivisie with Vitesse.

Play Style

“He’s creative, plays from central midfield in an attacking sense, scores, and creates goals,” Lampard said after the announcement that Mount would be joining Derby on loan this season.

These characteristics will be important for Derby who will once again be chasing promotion this season.

Mount is a dynamic threat in an attacking midfield role.

His ability to make correct decisions in attacking transition phases should prove crucial in unlocking the potential of the array of forward-thinking talent Lampard has at his disposal.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The 19-year-old is always looking to take risks to advance the ball and play attackers in behind the defence.

Similarly, he ensures routinely accurate delivery from set-pieces and is capable of scoring from dead ball situations himself.

Depending on the formation Lampard will look to play at Derby, Mount could also be suited to play as a number eight – his ball-carrying quality is another one of his strongpoints that would be particularly useful in such a role.

Season Ahead

The 19-year-old has already proven his capabilities at senior level, but the Championship provides him with another chance to showcase his qualities to his parent club in a league with a different dynamic.

In saying this, Mount’s game should translate well to English football as it is not overly predicated on any particular style of football, nor is he reliant on a system being shaped around him. He is dynamic.

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Derby should target Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, hand him the number nine shirt

Derby County are set to embark on the dawn of a new era under the management of Frank Lampard.

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Photo: Getty Images

Sky Bet Championship outfit Derby County recently unveiled their squad numbers for the 2018/19 campaign, on their official website, and the obvious omission from the list was the void of a number nine

The Rams have signed five new players this summer and it was thought in some people’s eyes that big-money recruit Jack Marriott, who arrived from Peterborough United, might be handed the famous shirt number

Marriott has taken number 14 and it leaves those of a Derby persuasion with a a sense of suspicion that boss Frank Lampard might not be quite finished in the transfer market just yet.

Ipswich Town striker Martyn Waghorn has been heavily linked with a move to the East Midlands, but given the money that the Tractor Boys are wanting to recoup for their star attraction, the Rams might be better off looking elsewhere to bolster their attacking ranks.

Lampard has already raided his former club Chelsea this summer to sign highly-rated youngster Mason Mount and a return to Stamford Bridge to request another favour might be in the Derby boss’ best interests, when it comes to signing a new striker.

Striker Tammy Abraham is not expected to get much of a look in under new Blues’ boss Maurizio Sarri and another loan move away from London could be on the agenda for the man who spent last season on loan at Swansea City.

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

In netting five goals from his 31 Premier League appearances at the Liberty Stadium he hardly set the league alight, but it is the form he showed during a loan spell at Bristol City that should tempt the Derby boss into a move for the talisman.

During his season-long stint at Ashton Gate he netted 23 goals from 41 games and was named the club’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year, demonstrating a devastating level of composure in front of goal at Championship level.

The Rams aren’t blessed with loads of pace when it comes to out-and-out strikers and Abraham’s youthful exuberance would make him a shrewd addition to Lampard’s new-look Rams squad, whilst a player of his ability would be more than worthy of wearing the number nine shirt.

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