Chelsea finished their first Champions League group stage game in uncharacteristically dull fashion after a 0-0 bore draw with Sevilla last night at Stamford Bridge. Whilst the performance was not exactly inspiring, even though for the last half an hour we had arguably our strongest team on the pitch, there were still pockets of the game that us Blues fans can take positives from; but also many things that need addressing.
One of the main standout positives from yesterday was our defensive organisation, led by Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy. It’s already devastatingly clear that these two are pivotal players for us, despite only signing in the window just gone. The contrast in our defensive setup when they are not playing seems immeasurable already, so when we come up against a Sevilla side as good as last night’s, it’s imperative that they’re on the starting team sheet.
We mustn’t forget that this Sevilla side are Europa League champions – beating some top teams along the way like Wolves, Manchester United and Inter Milan, whilst also being a whisker away from beating Bayern Munich in the Super Cup, who themselves are undeniably the best team in the world at the moment. So the notion from some fans that last night should’ve been an easy three points is scandalous. What’s impressive to me is not just the fact we kept a clean sheet against such a side, but just how little chances they carved out due to our organization and shape. Going forward, it looks like Lampard is going to stick to the defense that started yesterday and this will only improve the familiarity and standard of our performances in weeks to come. Encouraging signs after such a weak defensive display against Southampton.
Despite the positives there were a few things that alarmed me when watching the course of the game. The main thing being our inability to hold on to the ball and create a period of sustained possession. I’m aware that Sevilla are accomplished pressers, and largely didn’t give us any time or space on the ball in progressive areas, but even so it is not as if we don’t possess enough quality to produce attacking passages of play in regularity in such a game. It seems to me like we have no transition between the defense and the attack. Jorginho and Kante simply were not direct enough; we were far too slow when playing out from the back and we made it frustratingly easy for Sevilla to dominate us.
Whether it’s the players as individuals, or the system that they are set up in, it felt at times that we had no midfield capable of evading the press. When Kovacic was introduced it improved ever so slightly, but it’s still an issue that seems to damage us whenever we face a side that are on or above our level. Jorginho is a wonderful player when playing Southampton at home, with space and time in abundance, but is he good enough against teams that relentlessly hound you in an attempt to retrieve the ball? I’m not sure.
I’d like to put it down to an off day, as we have already seen glimpses of our attacking quality, but that was another thing worrying about last night’s performance. There seemed to be a real lack of chemistry between our forward players; near to no fluidity in any of our play. Of course, many are new signings, returning from injury or lacking match fitness – many a reason as to why it didn’t quite click last night. Mason Mount has received a lot of criticism recently, and as expected, received more last night but it wasn’t just him who played poorly. Havertz and Pulisic were devoid of any threat and Ziyech’s brief cameo proved he is still a way off match sharpness. Again though, I’m certain this can be put down to a one off and am increasingly excited at the potential of the attacking four we saw finish the game last night.
So overall a pretty forgettable night at the Bridge, but not one that warrants panic or negative reaction; in fact quite the opposite. I’m confident that if we can build on this defensive display, Frank will find the formula to get this team well and truly firing, and when he does we will have a seriously exciting side on our hands.