A Blue Up North reviews Chelsea’s home tie against Grimsby Town.
Chelsea continued their run of home matches with a League Cup 3rd round tie against Grimsby Town on Wednesday evening. The visitors currently lie in 9th place in League 2, England’s 4th tier of league football and will bring back some fond memories of previous meetings to some Blues supporters.
With back to back matches in the Premier League and Champions League, this was an opportunity for Frank Lampard to rotate his squad. He decided to change his full starting line up, including handing first team debuts to defenders Reece James and Marc Guehi.
Midfielder Billy Gilmour was also given his first start, after making a substitute appearance at home to Sheffield United earlier in the season. With Tino Anjorin and Ian Maatsen named as substitutes, Frank had a total of 10 Chelsea youth graduates in his match day squad. Oh, how times are a changing!
This allowed the opportunity for N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount to gain some extra recovery time after returning from injuries to face Liverpool on Sunday.
Andreas Christensen and Emerson Palmieri both broke down with injuries in the first half on Saturday and were unavailable for this match. Hopefully Christensen will be back in the squad very soon.
Young starlets Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham were both rested along with Kepa Arrizabalaga, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Willian ahead of a home Premier League match against Brighton this coming weekend.
This meant recalls for Willy Caballero, Kurt Zouma, Ross Barkley, Christian Pulisic, Pedro, Michy Batshuayi and a very welcome return for Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Grimsby Town named 5 defenders as they lined up in a 5-3-2 formation. They have not qualified for the 4th round in this competition since the 2001/02 season but arrived with plenty of hope against last season’s beaten finalists.
However, a marauding run forward and a lovely shot from Ross Barkley in the 4th minute, followed by a neat turn and finish by Michy Batshuayi from a Reece James cross in the 7th minute put The Blues into a very early comfortable position.
The visitors were struggling to match the energy and movement of the hosts, who were making it look like a training ground match with some delightful inter play.
But the home side noticeably eased off with their early lead and out of almost nothing the visitors pounced. Matt Green’s thunderbolt shot flew past Caballero and hit the roof of the net. The huge travelling support were in raptures in The Shed End.
Their team continued to battle as they attempted to create a cup shock. Green then came close to levelling the scores and suddenly Chelsea’s young defence were needing to learn very quickly. A couple of efforts from James Hanson and this tie was starting have the feel of a cup shock. Painful memories of Bradford City’s victory at Stamford Bridge from January 2015 were starting to enter the consciousness.
The Blues continued to press forward in possession, but remained looking vulnerable in defence. And just like the rest of Chelsea’s season so far, the match turned into the importance of who would score next.
Kurt Zouma stepped forward a few times with the ball, including a delightful pass out to Hudson-Odoi on the left wing, whose cross just eluded Batshuayi. But it was Zouma’s presence in the penalty area which gave Pedro the chance to make it 3-1 at half time from the spot.
The relief was palpable for The Blues, while the visiting support looked deflated. It was a half time lead that gave Frank the ability to send his players out focused and with plenty of purpose. Batshuayi, Alonso and Hudson-Odoi all had early chances.
But then Reece James showed again why he was revered so much whilst on loan at Wigan last season. A beautiful cross from the debutant was converted by Zouma who had stayed in attack after the set piece.
With their lead finally looking insurmountable, Frank introduced 2 more debutants as Tino Anjorin and Ian Maatsen coming on for Alonso and Pedro. That meant Chelsea had 7 former youth players on the pitch, a fantastic effort from all involved.
Then with the match all but over and the visitors were visibly tiring, The Blues became rampant. Reece James rounded off a very impressive performance with an outstanding curling effort to make it 5-0.
A second goal for Batshuayi and a well deserved goal for Hudson-Odoi on his return finished off an extremely enjoyable evening for The Blues.
This was a match that epitomised the current revolution that is underway with Frank at the helm. But more than that, it was a glimpse in to the future.
In the opening matches of this season we have seen the noticeable progression of a sprinkling of Chelsea’s youth products settling into the first team. Last season saw Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi eventually given their chance to prove their worth.
Under manager Frank and assistants Jody Morris and Joe Edwards, we have seen the emergence of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori. All of whom will be difficult to shift from their place in the starting XI.
We are only 8 matches in to the season and already a second wave of Reece James, Billy Gilmour and Marc Guehi were given the chance to play a full 90 minutes in front of their home support.
But then in the 67th minute, with the team leading comfortably by 4-1, a 3rd wave of young starlets were given a run out. Tino Anjorin and Ian Maatsen showed the depth of the current production line currently being evolving from Chelsea’s academy. The future truly is looking bright.
And thanks to the 4th round draw, Chelsea will face Manchester United for the 4th successive season in a cup competition. After Solskjaer’s team required a penalty shootout to finally scrape past League One opponents Rochdale, it could be a tie that all in Blue can look forward to.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue