Yesterday’s match at Mastella was one which Frank Lampard pegged as a “must not lose”. Chelsea will still have an opportunity to seal their fate and go into the knockout stages with a win against Lille on 10th December. This game will be the final measuring stick held to this Chelsea squad before, presumably, changes are made in January, with optimism around the football world that the transfer ban will end then. However, this is still three weeks away. For now, let’s talk about the result, individuals, and how to improve.
For this game, Chelsea employed a 4-3-3, featuring midfield stars Kante, Jorginho and Kovacic. Callum Hudson-Odoi didn’t make the trip, so Willian started in his place alongside Abraham and Lionel Me-, er, Christian Pulisic. At the back, Christensen was handed a rare start, likely to step in for a tired Tomori, paired with Kurt Zouma. Flanking them were Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James, with the former banishing Marcos Alonso from the team and keeping Emerson on the bench following an unconvincing run of form. Pitted against Valencia’s 4-4-2 which featured stars Daniel Wass, Daniel Parejo and Gerard Moreno, it would be difficult to say there were many standout performers from us this game.
This was a game where we could have won and we could have lost, but we did neither. In fairness to Valencia, they should have won the game compared to Chelsea losing the game. Valencia missed several chances with a gaping net staring back at the attack. There was no chemistry between Christensen and Zouma leaving holes every which way. Willian squandered about four dozen chances, and especially one off of a tasty ball from Reece James. Not only that, but Kovacic managed to guide a shot into the net for his first Chelsea goal (your eyes do not deceive you). Pulisic had his goal allowed after a lengthy VAR discussion, and that gave Chelsea a 2-1 lead. For a split second, you would think the way the game was being played you were watching FIFA 20. Sorry if that may have triggered flashbacks for anyone, I know it brought a tear or two to my eyes.
Despite all the Morata-esque misses from the opposition, Chelsea found themselves still up 2-1 with eight minutes to go before Davide Zappacosta turned up and decided to have a crank against his former club in the form of Daniel Wass. It’s easy to blame Kepa for allowing a really poorly struck cross (or an exceptionally good shot attempt) to fool him and do a Michael Jordan over his head into the net given his form, but he really was never saving that. It’s a freak goal, it’s football. It should have been worse even before then when Jorginho gave away a penalty only Marcos Alonso would be proud of, before Kepa turned it aside assuredly. The reality is that the defence should have closed down ‘Davide’ Wass so that he couldn’t attempt whatever it was that he attempted that resulted in an equaliser. And such is the story of the season for this Chelsea team so far.
Unimpactful: Abraham, Azpilicueta, Batshuayi, Mount, Emerson
Poor: Jorginho, Christensen, Willian
Exceptional: James, Zouma, Kante, Kovacic, Pulisic
Abraham was stretchered off at halftime and replaced by Batshuayi, but post match it has been reported by several journalists that he is fine and dealing with hip bruising. Batshuayi is in no way capable of being the starting number 9 at this club while Andreas Christensen is playing his way to China. Kovacic might be staking a claim as the best midfielder at this club with another fantastic performance. Pulisic, right now, is Chelsea’s best youngster and it’s not close. Kepa needs more support from his back line, and also verbally from the fans and otherwise. We need an actual back line to put on the pitch. Jadon Sancho refused to comment following Borussia Dortmund’s loss to Barcelona, where manager Lucien Favre stated that he would only start players that were “…really focused and that went on to the pitch really focused” (ESPN). This bodes well for the transfer-hungry Blues, who are likely eager to create a formidable English army that would include Abraham, Hudson-Odoi, Mount, Loftus-Cheek and Sancho. Lastly, it is important to remember that IF Chelsea WIN against Lille, they are through to the knockout stages. No need to panic, Frank is at the wheel. UTC & Happy Thanksgiving to the American Blues out there as well.