A Blue Up North reviews Chelsea’s victory at home to Bournemouth.
Chelsea returned to Stamford Bridge on Saturday as they hosted AFC Bournemouth in their Premier League fixture. With both teams making strong starts to their campaigns, this was a match up that could indicate the progress made by both sides.
This is the third season for Bournemouth in the top flight of English football and manager Eddie Howe is building a squad capable of competing with the biggest clubs in the country on a regular basis. After a comfortable opening victory over newly promoted Cardiff City, The Cherries won away at big spending West Ham United and fought back admirably to gain draw against Everton.
Howe sets his side up in a tight 3-4-3 formation, with his players well organised and extremely hard working. They play with a collective strength and resilience, whilst the combative but talented Callum Wilson creates a threat up front and is supported very well by the powerful and robust forward running Josh King.
Maurizio Sarri’s started with a now familiar looking Chelsea line up, with Willian in for Pedro being the only change. With the impressive Jorginho once again pulling the strings in midfield and with Willian and Eden Hazard buzzing around, The Blues were soon on top and looking the most likely to break the deadlock.
However, with Alvaro Morata once again struggling to get involved as often as he would want and rarely in a threatening position, and the hosts willingness to over play with the ball when passing to and fro across the edge of the opponent’s penalty box, key chances were at a premium.
Both Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso were charged with getting into more advanced positions as often as they could and it was the latter’s ability to be involved in goal threatening areas that nearly unlocked the very well drilled Bournemouth defence. Alonso hit the post and brought about a smart save from ex Blue Asmir Begovic were the home side’s closest attempts, which otherwise were kept to long shots that generally sailed high and wide of their target or bounced off the keeper.
But, with huge similarities to the Newcastle match, the catalyst to the victory was the introduction of Olivier Giroud for Alvaro Morata. Within seconds the Frenchman won a 50/50 header against his marker which brought a cheer from all around the ground. Those cheering fans were aware of the significance of Giroud’s more robust physical attitude. The Bournemouth defenders were suddenly on their back foot and when Pedro was also brought on, the Spaniard was able to create just the yard of space he requires to rifle the opening goal into the corner of the net. The scene was then set for Eden Hazard to finish off the visitors in his usual electric breathtaking fashion.
Yes, before the goals, Bournemouth did have 2 very good chances to take the lead, but they never enjoyed any control on the match. And with further similarities to some of Chelsea’s previous matches, it was The Blues’s persistence and patience that paved the road to their victory. Without generating “title contenders” headlines throughout the main media by using attacking football mostly based on fast running, this Chelsea side take the game by the scruff of the neck, allow their opponents very little opportunities to manoeuvre and keep going until they achieve their target. It was the philosophy that nearly allowed Sarri’s Napoli side to wrestle the Italian league title out of the all conquering Juventus’s hands.
And so far, so good. There is no better way to be going into the season’s first international break than with 4 wins from 4 matches. The manager is absolutely correct in his post match analysis in that there is still plenty of room for improvement, but being joint top of the league is the most exciting position to witness how the team plays as improvements are made.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue