One of the most hotly anticipated fixtures of the Premier League season, Chelsea vs Manchester United, failed to live up to its usual goal-packed standards as the two teams settled for a dull 0-0 draw at Old Trafford on Saturday evening.
Leading up to the game, the weather in Manchester was torrid. Sheets of rain were relentlessley lashing down on the pitch and the corner flags were swaying from side to side in heavy gusts of wind. These conditions are usually considered a strikers fantasy and a goalkeepers nightmare. Clearly this wouldn’t be the case for Edouard Mendy however, as the Senegal international put in a man of the match performance, denying Marcus Rashford with his feet in the first half, then with a fantastic acrobatic save moments from time.
Chelsea on the whole looked defensively solid, adapting a 3-5-2 formation with a back line consisting of Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma and Cesar Azpilicueta. The three of which, were solid throughout the game, with Thiago Silva making a crucial block late on to deny substitute Edison Cavani a goal on his Premier League debut.
Ben Chilwell and Reece James took the role of wing-backs and both also had a brilliant game defensively, the latter handling Paul Pogba’s physical prescence with ease after his second half introduction.
Frank Lampard will be pleased to see that his defence is finally coming together, having kept two clean sheets in as many matches and the combination of Mendy and Silva seemingly being a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, whilst the goals have stopped flying in at Chelsea’s end, they seem to have dried up at the other end too.
Chelsea’s front three of Pulisic, Werner and Havertz is formidable on paper however the team only registered one shot on target the entire game and never really looked like scoring. I struggle to recall one moment in the match where I genuinely believed a move would result in a goal.
I can’t see Lampard being too concerned with this, as our attack has proven that it can score plenty of goals, however are clearly struggling to adapt to the constant change in system.
The fact that so many different formations and combinations are being tested may not be too much of a surprise considering Chelsea’s numerous attacking options and the lack of a pre-season, however many fans are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of any sort of routine and have begun to question Lampard’s managerial ability, a statement which I of course disgaree with.
The introduction of second half substitues painted a bleak picture for Chelsea fans, with a stark and borderline amusing contrast between the teams changes. Manchester United opted to bring on Edison Cavani, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood, clearly pushing to take all 3 points, whilst Chelsea introduced Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Hakim Ziyech for the final 10 minutes of the game. Havertz, Werner and Pulisic were the ones to make way, each with faces painted with frustration. The only explanation I can think of was Lampard just wanted to bring on fresh legs, as the position we were in, none of the substitutes were likely to make an impact. Predictably none of the trio had any real involvement in the game after coming on, Ziyech in particular delivering two poor corners with some of his few touches of the game.
A question hot on the lips of many Chelsea fans is where is Callum Hudson-Odoi? The young England international committed his future to Chelsea once again in the summer after turning down a move to Bayern Munich, who have been keen to secure his signature for two seasons now. He has only made limited appearances under Lampard after coming back from a long term injury last season, and seems to be struggling to get his foot in the door at all. He was not named as part of the squad on Saturday.
Lampard has always said that the players that perform well in training during the week are the ones that will feature in the starting lineup, so has Hudson-Odoi not been pulling his weight? Or is there a deeper issue to hand?
Many Chelsea fans will hope the latter isn’t the case and he is simply being rested for Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Krasnodar. I don’t doubt there will be a social media uprising if he does not feature again, especially after the club reportedly passed on a big-money offer from the German champions to pass ways only two months ago.
So what does Saturdays result mean?
I personally don’t think it was a bad result in the end. No, I am not ‘celebrating a draw’ but rather accepting that a match that is usually a bogey fixture for Chelsea resulted in a clean sheet and a point. Yes, I accept that our attack wasn’t good enough but I’m a believer in the process. Lampard has addressed the defensive issues that was denying the team of so many deserved results and can now focus on combining that electric early season attack that we’ve seen. Make no mistake, a big win is needed in the Champions League on Tuesday, but I firmly believe Chelsea are on the right track. We currently sit above 4 of the 5 other ‘big six’ teams in the league, have a promising European path and will surely challenge for the F.A cup in January. Big things are to come.