LONDON — Three factors from Chelsea’s Zero-Zero draw with Leicester at Stamford Bridge.
1. Chelsea draw once more
It hasn’t been a contented 2018 for Chelsea up to now: a draw with Arsenal, a draw with Norwich, one other draw with Arsenal and now one other draw, at dwelling to a Leicester Metropolis facet that performed with 10 males for the ultimate 20 minutes after left-back Ben Chilwell’s dismissal. It is a poor run of outcomes for the defending Premier League champions, who can nonetheless depend upon glorious defensive organisation however look desperately in need of attacking inspiration.
That stated, even Chelsea’s defending wasn’t notably spectacular right here. Leicester had been the higher facet and created extra alternatives, excelling within the first half earlier than dropping a lot deeper after the break. Jamie Vardy was brighter than Alvaro Morata, Riyad Mahrez extra harmful than Eden Hazard.
For that, Claude Puel should take a big slice of the credit score on this battle of the 2 most up-to-date Premier League champions. Leicester had been tactically glorious, coping properly with their numerical drawback in midfield by dropping Shinji Okazaki in to assist and urgent Chelsea’s build-up play with confidence, seemingly having wised as much as the passing patterns of their centre-backs.
In reality, Chelsea ought to really feel fortunate to have taken some extent fairly than disappointment at having dropped two. The one comfort is that Chelsea’s upcoming Premier League fixtures (Brighton, Bournemouth, Watford and West Brom) are hardly daunting, however the boos round Stamford Bridge at full-time underlined the house followers’ present frustrations.
2. Chelsea’s system nonetheless fails to yield a victory
Whereas Chelsea stormed to the title final season after Antonio Conte’s swap to a three-man defence, his default formation this time round has been the Three-5-2. There have been logical causes for the change: get Hazard nearer to objective and incorporate Cesc Fabregas into the facet with out dropping midfield stability. In matches like this, nonetheless, one wonders whether or not the additional midfielder is serving a lot goal.
Particularly, it have to be stated, when that additional midfielder is Tiemoue Bakayoko. He wasn’t essentially Chelsea’s worst performer on Saturday however nonetheless, he is contributed comparatively little since his swap from Monaco final summer time. Bakayoko is actually a box-to-box midfielder however his skill when he reaches both field is extremely questionable. In addition to, with Leicester’s Okazaki enjoying a usually energetic function and dropping again onto his outdated teammate N’Golo Kante to make sure Leicester weren’t overrun, Chelsea did not even have the numerical benefit in midfield Conte might have anticipated.
With simply two forwards, Chelsea usually appear fairly predictable within the ultimate third. Morata and Hazard have a great relationship and tried to mix with some slick one-twos right here, however so hardly ever is there a 3rd man contributing to attacking strikes. Their first half efficiency was crying out for Pedro Rodriguez, who stays glorious at making these late, unseen bursts from the flank into scoring positions whereas additionally offering a lot wanted width.
The three-5-2 asks so much from Chelsea’s wing-backs, too. The fantastic thing about the Three-Four-Three was that the vast gamers would transfer inside, opening up each flank for Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses to flood. Right here, with the opposition full-backs having no accountability for Hazard, they might focus their consideration on stopping Chelsea’s wing-backs. We not see Chelsea overloading the opposition defence.
The brand new system is actually a precious different for Chelsea, and Conte’s willpower to maintain opponents on their toes is comprehensible: the Three-Four-Three was “labored out” to a sure extent in direction of the again finish of final season. However with Morata struggling to seek out the online, Chelsea want an additional objective menace of their ahead line. It took lower than 15 minutes of the second half for Conte to introduce Pedro and Willian however in taking off Hazard and Fabregas, Chelsea misplaced their two greatest attacking threats, and the 2 gamers this technique is designed to learn.
Conte shifted again to the Three-Four-Three, with Alonso and Moses pushing ahead. This prompted Leicester’s full-backs extra issues and doubtless contributed to the sport’s key second: Foxes’ left-back Chilwell was despatched off for 2 bookable challenges, first on right-winger Willian after which on right-wing-back Moses. Chelsea, nonetheless, could not benefit from that benefit.
Three. Mahrez shines once more
It was anticipated that Leicester would placed on extra of a counter-attacking show at Stamford Bridge: sit again, absorb stress and use the pace of Vardy. However the Foxes had been extra proactive and dominated possession within the opening levels very impressively. That they had 12 first-half photographs, essentially the most for an away facet at Chelsea in properly over a decade in accordance with Opta, and Puel can have been dissatisfied his facet weren’t main on the break.
Their star performer was once more Mahrez, who was largely given license to stay in attacking positions fairly than monitoring Alonso — partially as a result of Chelsea had been enjoying Three-5-2 and never Three-Four-Three as outlined above — and used his freedom to provide some glorious moments, roaring previous Antonio Rudiger on a couple of event.
The Algeria worldwide has rightly been criticised for being inconsistent since Leicester’s title-winning marketing campaign of two years in the past, generally seemingly choosing and selecting which matches he desires to dominate. This, nonetheless, was one in all his good video games. From the outset he discovered house and repeatedly drove in direction of objective, though he ought to have finished higher with a superb likelihood from a left-wing cross that he skied into the highest tier.
Solely Hazard might match his fast footwork and whereas Mahrez is clearly a left-footed right-winger, he reveals a willingness and talent to go down the road, too. This regularly appears to shock opposition defences and shortly earlier than half-time, he pushed ahead to the skin of Rudiger and flashed in a low cross along with his proper foot, which was crying out for a end from Vardy or Okazaki.
Mahrez was additionally concerned within the second half’s first main speaking level, when he darted onto the ball within the field and went to floor having tried to engineer contact with Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen. He was lucky to flee with out a reserving for diving.
With Liverpool having misplaced Coutinho, Arsenal set to lose Alexis Sanchez, Manchester United attacking reinforcements and Chelsea additionally needing extra attacking inspiration, Mahrez nonetheless appears the most suitable choice for any of those title challengers. Few gamers in Europe can rating, help and dribble as impressively as Mahrez; maybe no-one else in that bracket can be eligible to play within the latter levels of European competitors, both.