Connect with us


How Pedro and Baba Rahman Transform Chelsea



Embed from Getty Images

The season has started slowly for Chelsea. A disappointing loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield was followed by a perplexing 2-2 draw at home against Swansea, followed by an embarrassing 3-0 loss at City.

Worse than the results is the process. While Jose Mourinho might have been able to take some solace in the fact that his team had played well, and been unlucky to lose, there is no such refuge.

Chelsea has been profoundly underwhelming. The defense is porous. The offense is blunt. Nemanja Matic is not the monster that swallowed up midfields last season. Cesc Fabregas isn’t pulling strings. Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic seem burned out. Diego Costa looks desperate to get some better service, but even then one wonders if he would score.

Change is needed. Something has failed. Whether that is the system, the players, or, more likely, some combination, Chelsea needs to make some changes. Not an overhaul. No house cleaning. Just some tweaks.

It is clear that Jose Mourinho and the board at Chelsea recognize that. They watched the weak performances. They saw the need for fresh air. And they’ve moved on it.

Pedro’s shocking transfer is one indicator of that. Baba Rahman’s is the second. Both give Mourinho the flexibility he needs to shake things up.

Rahman is a very different fullback than Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea’s normal right back. Ivanovic is a converted center back, playing out of position on the right. While he was brilliant last season, teams have quickly figured out how to beat him. Jefferson Montero and Raheem Sterling both used their tremendous pace to blow past him.

Ivanovic is too slow to deal with true wingers. He is also very offensive. That’s not always bad, but when Willian or whoever is on the right fails to track back and help Ivanovic cover, it leaves Chelsea exposed.

Rahman, on the other hand, is just as speedy as his counterparts. He is great going forward as well, showing a good ability to hit strikers with crosses.

It is not certain that Rahman will push Ivanovic out of the lineup immediately. Ivanovic has had a few bad matches, but he is still one of the best right backs in the league, as well as the vice-captain, and his removal could create discord in the locker room.*

*Rahman for Ivanovic isn’t a straight swap. Rahman would take over at left back, while Cesar Azpilicueta, a natural right back, would move across to Ivanovic’s spot.

But, if Mourinho thought the decision necessary, Rahman would not be a bad replacement; in fact, he might be an upgrade.

Rahman’s pace and defensive skills mean that Jose wouldn’t have to worry about leaving him isolated. Ivanovic requires covering midfielders, who can help in with the pace of players like Montero and Sterling.

But Rahman can handle them, allowing Mourinho to drop Willian or Ramires and start a more offensive winger. Like Pedro.

The former Barca man has a great eye for goal (73 goals in 259 appearances for the Catalans), as well as setting others up (41 assists as well). He is a direct winger, fantastic at picking out targets in the box. He makes incisive and cutting runs behind defenses, and scores most of his goals from those situations.

His work ethic is impressive as well. Pedro often made those runs to no end, and was always outside of the spotlight at Barcelona. Yet he still managed to fend off Thierry Henry, David Villa, Alexis Sanchez, and numerous other challengers to retain his spot in the starting lineup.

Pedro’s pace, as well as his dribbling and passing, make him an easy choice to slot into Chelsea’s lineup. He will probably take Willian’s place on the right, although he could slot into any of the front three midfield positions.

Along with Baba Rahman, Pedro will reshape how Chelsea plays. The Blues will look more like the XI Jose built in his first spell at the club.

Trade Didier Drogba out for Diego Costa (both struggled with injuries in their early years at the club, just as a fun sidenote). Trade Arjen Robben and Joe Cole for Eden Hazard and Pedro.

Nemanja Matic will boss the middle of the park like Claude Makelele. The backline will be as solid as it was then, and Thibaut Courtois is a worthy comparison to Petr Cech.

For much of last season, it seemed the Mourinho was holding his team back. He didn’t want the Blues to play the fluid, possession based football they had so beautifully pulled off earlier. There were too many defensive issues, even though the backline was strong.

Chelsea was too often caught out in midfield, and teams could open them up on the break. The Blues went almost the first half of the year without losing, but Mourinho wasn’t comfortable with the shootout style of games they played.

With Rahman slotting in at left back, and Azpilicueta shifting over to right back, Mourinho can relax. He can let Fabregas, Hazard and Pedro off the leash. With a backline that doesn’t need as much cover, and without Ivanovic leaving gaps in the defense by acting like a forward, the midfield and Costa can break loose.

Pedro’s directness will allow Costa to stay central more often. He will ping crosses into Costa, allowing the striker to prey on defenders more.

Hazard will also be freed up by Pedro. The Spaniard’s runs will distract defenders from their focus on Hazard, and give the Belgian a target for his passes. Fabregas too will have a player running in behind defenses to knock the ball too.

Pedro’s inclusion might also allow Ivanovic to stay in the squad. Although the Serbian would still leave the back line open at times, it would make attacks sharper. Ivanovic often darts forward down the right, picking the ball up outside the box.

Willian, Ramires, Juan Cuadrado and Victor Moses often fail to make secondary runs behind and past him, giving him no options to pass too. This leaves Ivanovic with two options: shoot or cross, neither very successful.

But Pedro is the player Ivanovic is looking for. They could play 1-2’s off each other, and Ivanovic would finally have a player to set up for runs into the box.

I personally believe that Rahman should be given a chance. Ivanovic is a great player, but he is out of position at right back. Making him a backup center back would be a better option, both for himself and the team.

However, Jose seems to trust in Ivanovic, and if he can make it work, awesome. Ivanovic can be frustrating, but at the same time, he is a big player for the team. The goals he scored last year were crucial to Chelsea’s success. I also believe in loyalty, and giving the veteran a chance to vindicate himself. Maybe Branislav is just having a few bad games, and he will be backing in world beating form soon.

The moves of this past week aren’t the end all solution to Chelsea’s problems. But they are a statement. A statement that Chelsea is ready to become one of the best teams in Europe.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Francisco Javier Fernández

[separator type=”thin”] Up-to-40-off-940X340

Weekend starts here, get up to 40% OFF @CampoRetro. Look good for less! Click here:

James is Chelsea fan, but he enjoys writing about more than just Stamford Bridge. He has written about Swansea, internationals and the Champions League before. Give him a follow @thepitchview


Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?

The Spanish international has been inconsistent since his £60 million move.



Photo: Getty Images

When Antonio Conte sealed the signing of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid in the summer, many Chelsea fans lauded him as one of the signings of the window.

He was an instant hit at Stamford Bridge following his £60 million arrival, scoring on his debut off the bench in a 3-2 loss against Burnley on the opening day.

Morata has been most commonly used as an impact sub especially at Madrid, but at Chelsea, he was quickly given the responsibility of spearheading the Blues’ attack.

He repaid the faith Conte showed in him early, notching a hat trick away at Stoke in mid-September.

There was early talk of him being involved in a four-way battle for the golden boot alongside Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Gabriel Jesus.

Since then, it hasn’t worked out as well for Morata at Chelsea.

He went on a scoring drought soon after, although he did score a crucial winner against title rivals Manchester United in November.

He still received criticism, however, culminating in a poor performance against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup, where he missed several guilt edge chances to give Chelsea the advantage.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

He then played 40 minutes in the FA Cup against Norwich, managing to receive two yellow cards in a matter of seconds, first for diving, and then for dissent.

The cold weather has been blamed for his lack of form, as well as a back injury which at one point Conte suggested could force him to miss the rest of the season.

The English climate is different to what Morata will have previously experienced in Spain and in Italy with Juventus, although whether that can be used as a real argument is debatable.

He proved that theory wrong today, finishing off a fine Chelsea move in one of the coldest games of the season.

The Spaniard has looked bereft of confidence in recent weeks and months, and it appeared that Olivier Giroud had overtaken him as Chelsea’s leading marksman until today.

Morata proved his class against a Leicester side that, had it not been for a late mistake, would have taken the current Premier League champions to penalties.

His well placed shot after an excellent Willian through ball opening the scoring before an audacious flick hit the crossbar.

Although not at the heights of the likes of Kane (24 goals) and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (28 goals), Morata has notched 10 goals of his own – a decent return considering he has missed a fair amount of games with injury in a team that is equally reliant on goals from wingers Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian.

With the cold weather subsiding, if that can be used as an excuse for some of Morata’s poor performances, and Chelsea’s chances of silverware increasing with an FA Cup semi-final, now is surely the time for Morata to produce some of his best form and lead Chelsea’s charge going into the back end of the season.

Continue Reading


Tieumoue Bakayoko disappoints again for Chelsea against Leicester City

The Frenchman looked to struggle against his FA Cup opponents.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Tieumoue Bakayoko was one of the big-name signings for Chelsea during the summer as the club tried to push on under Antonio Conte after their Premier League triumph.

The Frenchman had been a standout player for AS Monaco during their surprise Ligue 1 winning campaign and cost the Blues a reported £40 million.

Although they are one of the richest clubs in the world, that remains a big spend and they would have been expecting a first-team ready player.

That hasn’t been the case as Bakayoko has struggled to adapt to English football and has found himself sidelined for Danny Drinkwater on several occasions.

The England international is an experienced Premier League player, but he was brought in to provide cover. It is a worry that he has been performing better than the player brought in to partner N’Golo Kante.

(Photo by Adrian Dennis/Getty Images)

Chelsea managed to qualify for the semi-final of the FA Cup with an extra-time victory over Leicester City. However, Bakayoko was underwhelming once again after being brought back into the starting eleven.

He lasted until half-time before being replaced by Cesc Fabregas. During the first half, the Blues were too predictable in central midfield as neither player offered creativity from deep.

Wilfred Ndidi was arguably the best player in that area of the pitch as he dominated Bakayoko and Kante for the first-half.

The summer signing from Monaco was booked just before the break and didn’t re-emerge for the second-half. It was another disappointing performance from him as he failed to take the opportunity provided by Antonio Conte.

During the match, Bakayoko had a tackle success rate of 33% and he failed to make a single key pass to influence proceedings in the attacking half.

It was obvious that he was lacking in confidence as he often chose the simple pass and wasn’t as aggressive as the Leicester midfield players that he was competing with.

As the season has progressed, central midfield has emerged as an area of weakness for Chelsea. They often play with two defensive-minded midfielders and that makes them predictable to play against.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Last season, Nemanja Matic was more dynamic in central areas and he wasn’t afraid to step into the attacking half to contribute to attacks. The decision to sell him to a rival club now looks a huge mistake as the Blues are less effective in the middle of the park.

It was hoped that Ross Barkley would provide more energy to that position, but he has struggled with injuries since moving to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have a difficult task to save their season, as they must finish in the top four and lift the FA Cup to restore pride.

Bakayoko needs to have a strong end to his season if he is to prove himself worthy of another chance next season. There is likely to be a new manager at Stamford Bridge with Antonio Conte’s position looking more untenable by the day.

A managerial change will lead to a squad overhaul and the 23-year-old will be one of the first to go. He doesn’t offer anything different to Kante and his compatriot is far superior in every area.

His most ardent supporters will allude to his inexperience and suggest that he needs to be given more time. However, when watching him against the 21-year-old Ndidi, it became clear that he isn’t good enough for a club like Chelsea. He was outclassed and outbattled by his younger opponent.

Since Roman Abramovich bought the club, there have been several mistakes made in the transfer market. The decision to sell Matic and sign Bakayoko was another.

Continue Reading


Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: Three talking points from the Etihad

Jake Jackman



Manchester City
Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City managed to beat Chelsea for the second time this season as they continue their march to the Premier League title. The contest was far from entertaining, as the visitors showed no interest in playing football and instead to soak in pressure.

Pep Guardiola’s team didn’t have to get out of second gear and it was a more comfortable victory than they would have been expecting. The Citizens are now 18 points clear at the top of the table and remain on target for 100 points, which would be a superb achievement.

Meanwhile, Chelsea sit outside of the Champions League places and are now five points behind Tottenham in fourth position. They will need a near perfect end to the season if they are to avoid missing out on qualification for next season’s competition. Here are three talking points from the Etihad Stadium…

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

David Silva showed his class

The 32-year-old has been at Manchester City for the majority of their journey from Premier League also-rans to elite super club and he remains a crucial player for them under Pep Guardiola.

If he had been in the team for the entire campaign, he would be running Kevin de Bruyne close for the PFA Player of the Year award. He is a classy operator who seems to get better with age.

He got the important assist for the winning goal with a superb piece of play and that is becoming par for the course for the Spanish international. Silva completed 95% of his passes and made three key passes during the contest. Meanwhile, he was very good out of possession as he made three ball recoveries.

It has been incredible to watch Pep Guardiola get all of his attacking talent on the pitch at one time, but the improvement of both Silva and De Bruyne off the ball has helped achieve that.

They are now complete midfielders and capable of thriving in both halves of the pitch. The midfielder is a club legend and supporters will be hoping that he has a few years left in him.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Antonio Conte continues to make puzzling decisions

Last season, the Italian was lauded every week as his side won the league title comfortably, but he has failed to follow it up with a good second campaign. There have been a lot of problems for Chelsea this season including recruitment, tactics and player performance.

They have been reliant on Eden Hazard and as the campaign has progressed, the team have lost their intensity, which suggests they no longer believe in Conte.


Their 3-4-2-1 formation was revolutionary, but they have moved away from it frequently this season and haven’t been able to settle on a first eleven. That was one of Chelsea’s strengths last season. Gary Cahill and David Luiz have been sidelined, while Alvaro Morata has failed to replace Diego Costa sufficiently.

On Sunday, Conte chose to field Hazard as a lone frontman, but he struggled to impact the game in that role. He is best when having space in front of him to run into and he didn’t have that against Manchester City.

The Belgian international was isolated and touched the ball only 31 times. It was a tactical error and one that blunted Chelsea’s attack before a ball was kicked.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Ilkay Gundogan is flourishing in the middle of the park for Manchester City

The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder has had his problems since arriving in the Premier League.

He has suffered a few injuries and that has seen him struggle to secure a regular starting berth, but he has featured prominently in recent weeks and is perfect for the system. Gundogen recycles possession effectively and that is required, especially when the opposition team sits deep.


Gundogen touched the ball more than any other player on the pitch with 181 touches and was very good at distributing the ball quickly. He finished the match with a 96% pass success rate, which shows his role.

He wasn’t taking any risks and he didn’t have to. City have a lot of attacking talent and the German international isn’t required to try risky passes to influence the game.

Although Chelsea didn’t get on the ball much, Gundogen broke up the play when required with four ball recoveries. Fernandinho’s absence could allow the 27-year-old to secure the place on a permanent basis and he does offer more in the role, especially in possession. It was a strong performance and one of the standouts in a dull affair.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2017 The Boot Room.