Iram reflects on Chelsea’s urgent areas for improvement going into the final two matches of the Premier League Season.
Chelsea are in a bit of a bind at the moment. We slipped up against West Ham and Sheffield United, with Manchester United and Leicester breathing on our necks as we speak. With the importance of the next few games, you’d think the players would give it their all against Norwich and show everyone how we can come back and fight. What did we get instead? An utter boring snoozefest with zero entertainment value. Before I get into the nitpicking and details, can we get a round of applause for Hakim Ziyech? This was his first time at the bridge during a game, and somehow he managed to stay awake for the full 90. Anyways, here are my thoughts on the Norwich game.
Firstly, I need to set one thing clear. Our attacking play is simply not good enough for this level of football. We struggle against relegation teams because we lack serious creativity going forward, yet there are people who don’t want to sign more attackers. We lack players with adaptive and clever football brains, as most of the players are still influenced by possession based play with a restriction on riskier approaches. On the right flank, Azpilicueta and Willian have a great understanding of one another, but they accomplish little with it. Willian never makes a smart pass or a crucial far post run like Pulisic does, whereas the fullbacks also hesitate to make those riskier passes, opting to send in crosses which are less risky. The signing of Ziyech is crucial in fixing our lack of creativity, and the arrival of Werner will hopefully allow us to bury those juicy crosses and delightful chances. Despite this, we still lack a midfielder who can create from the center, which is where a player like Havertz would be needed.
On the other side of the pitch, the defence was better than before but still shaky as usual. The side-to-side and backwards passing in the defense was dreadful to watch and almost laughable. Whenever anyone did make a pass, it was always a long ball from Rudiger or Zouma that had a low chance of reaching the intended target. When we actually had to defend, the entire team did well and Kepa didn’t have much to do. Then again, Norwich played very poorly, especially going up. Their best player that day, Cantwell, was the best in attack and defense. That says a lot about the opposition we were facing, and explains why many fans are still not happy with the game.
Tactically, Frank Lampard went with the basics today. We used the wingers to compress the Norwich defenders, allowing the full backs to send in crosses rather easily. Norwich played a level of park the bus that is hard to see in modern football, but it proved a big problem for the players today. Their defense was extremely difficult to penetrate through the center, so everything came from the wings. Even with the numerical situation being poor, we still should have utilized the few chances we had better, especially the numerous corners we received. One thing I noticed was that our front press was especially weak today, despite the amount of passing between the Norwich defenders. Giroud doesn’t tend to press as well as Tammy, whereas Willian likes to drop deep and Pulisic engages the front press when he has enough stamina and support to do so.
Despite the three points and the clean sheet, this game was terribly boring. We played with no creativity and flair while Norwich didn’t even feel like scoring. In their counter-attacks, they usually only had a few people making the runs forward, making it relatively easy to defend. However, Manchester United on Sunday will be a great challenge for our defense and offense. They are well tuned to counter-attacking football against sides that like to keep possession, and they are the kryptonite of Frank’s play style. To beat Manchester United, Chelsea will have to do something different than before. We can’t allow them to counter-attack rapidly, and we certainly can’t be caught in position in dangerous areas. In addition to that, players will have to mark certain dangerous people like Bruno Fernandes and Martial like a hawk stalking its prey. Let’s hope Frank and the team learn from the pros and cons in the game against Norwich and develop a firm plan on beating Manchester United.