A Blue Up North reviews Chelsea’s home match against Sheffield United.
Chelsea returned to Stamford Bridge this Saturday as they hosted Sheffield United. And after victory away to Norwich City last weekend, this was an opportunity to gain back to back wins over newly promoted teams.
After a loss and a draw in their first 2 Premier League games, last week’s win had finally given Frank Lampard the result that he felt his team had deserved based on their performances from the start of the season.
However there has been a worrying trend in all 3 of their previous matches. Admittedly, The Blues didn’t take the lead against Manchester United first time out, but were in the ascendancy early on before being trounced.
Chelsea dominated early on and took the lead at home to Leicester City, only to lose both control on the match and the win. Then twice at Carrow Road, The Blues conceded equalisers to Norwich. Frank’s team did then manage to dominate the second half and come away with all 3 points.
And so to Sheffield United at home. On paper this would be a match to make most Chelsea supporters water at the mouths. It has been 12 years since The Blades last Premier League experience and they have a squad full of players with minimal top flight appearances between them.
Chris Wilder has done a magnificent job so far as manager. From the lower reaches of the third tier to now going toe to toe with the country’s finest, he has progressed the team with little fuss.
His side are like most promoted teams in that they give no quarter and will battle for everything. But there is plenty of ability, both individually and collectively. Midfielders Luke Freeman and John Lundstram were excellent both going forward and helping out in defence, while Oliver McBurnie and Callum Robinson were a constant nuisance for Chelsea’s defence.
Lampard, rather surprisingly, made 1 change to the line up from last week. N’Golo Kante, Pedro and Reece James were still out with injuries, along with the long term absentees Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Antonio Rudiger.
The manager decided to give 18 year old Fikayo Tomori his first start for the first team in place of Andreas Christensen, who moved to the substitute’s bench. His choice seemed doubly surprising due to Zouma and Christensen were just starting to form a partnership in central defence, and while The Blues were still conceding, throwing in such a young player is a brave move.
However the young Canadian acquitted himself very well, looking very composed, distributing the ball very well and using his speed to cover at the back.
But surely this match would be more about Chelsea’s midfield and attack. With both sides playing variations of 4-3-3 formations, the match was more about skill, ability and aptitude.
And it was a first half that highlighted the differing fortunes of the club’s recently. The Blues edged the play, looking more dominant and threatening. The visitors did have their chances but squandered them, while Tammy Abraham matched his exploits at Norwich with 2 more finely taken goals.
Surely a 2-0 half time lead would be the foundation for The Blues to record back to back victories. But this is fast becoming a team that is gaining a reputation for not seeing out their advantage.
Wilder’s team talk must have drilled that in to his players, who went straight for the jugular. From then on the home side looked a little nervous. They did manage to create a few chances to increase their lead, with Abraham only denied his hat trick by an outstanding save from Dean Henderson in goal.
But this was a relatively flat display from The Blues in the second half. It emphasised the lack of a true leader in the team and the importance of needing someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Instead, the visitors steadily increased in belief.
Frank tried his best to breathe more life in to his team. Willian, full of pace and experience, was introduced. Michy Batshuayi was given a chance up front and the youthfulness of Billy Gilmour, on his debut, were unable to make enough of a difference.
And so the inevitable happened. The visitors got the equaliser they deserved for their efforts and desire. And Frank now has an international break to analyse and counter the recurring issues his team has.
Opponents seem too capable of carving they way through Chelsea’s defence, with a number of goals being conceded from crosses from the inside left position. Only against Norwich were his team on top til the end of the match, but even then only after conceding 2 equalisers.
The reintroduction of key missing players will answer most of these issues, but a top club striving away in 4 competitions requires it’s full squad to work at it’s best abilities. The current team will do well, but are likely to fall short in all 4 of them.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue