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The Domino Effect: Chelsea FC 2018-19 season so far

Vivek Joshi
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
536   //    26 Nov 2018, 16:32 IST

Will Son's goal proveto be the catalyst of change or was it the end of Sarri-ball?
Will Son's goal proveto be the catalyst of change or was it the end of Sarri-ball?

Mauricio Pochettino was questioned and criticized but he knew what he was doing when Tottenham Hotspurs were completely inactive during the transfer period. Fast forward 4 months later, to the cold Saturday evening at Wembley Stadium, Tottenham decimated the only unbeaten team in all competitions in Europe. They brutally and yet beautifully destroyed the structures of the Chelsea team and implied that Sarri and Zola were only building castles out of the sky.

The commentators of the game made it easy for Chelsea fans by stating it was just a bad at the office. A team like Chelsea playing horrendous football for 90 minutes was more than just coincidence rather an accumulation of errors and weaknesses which were strategically and cunningly exploited by Pochettino and his men. Maurizio Sarri and his squad had played 17 games before the London Derby at Wembley, had drawn 4 and won 13.

An experience of 17 games is no less. Robert Di Matteo was no exception. 17 games, plus numerous training sessions which were covered with drones to analyze the team formations and understand the player's performances were not enough to teach Sarri that David Luiz likes to get out of the path of the ball or the player who is supposed to be stopped.

Chelsea’s defense has a unique reputation. Sometimes these men do not allow giants like Messi to score against them and sometimes they make it so easy for players to score as though they are playing FIFA online. Allowing Harry Kane to take the shot was not the best decision. Getting away from the ball made it worse.

Luiz’s decision could only have few explanations such as he assumed the keeper would be there, he assumed that the ball won’t hit the target or his body had to be protected (Imagine John Terry’s face when he would have seen that goal.) Marcos Alonso and his performances have made it clear that he’s not the perfect left back any team would like to have. He still manages to do a fair job. Put that man into attacking role and he’ll do magic.

Cesar Azpilicueta is the most consistent player over the years, fans adore him, his aggression reminds us of JT and Frank era and is also the most deserving player to wear the captain’s armband amongst other. But what happened to him? He was all over the place. A captain should be the one to rally his men but he clearly wasn’t having a peaceful and clear picture in his head. But it was really disappointing to see Alli and Eriksen making a mockery of Cesar. But he deserves a few appreciation points for delivering a nice cross to Giroud. There’s not enough to talk about Antonio Rudiger. His body language and frame of mind shows it all.

Enough about how the defense played, this article is not regarding the game review at all. This article is all about asking questions to the Chelsea coach, his staff and his think tank. Let’s begin. Two weeks ago, Chelsea not only failed to score but also got their 4th draw of the season against Everton. 4th draw in 12 games with 8 wins, not that bad, right? It was awful and scary.

Everton had man marked Blues playmaker Jorginho and handed out a blueprint to all the Premier League teams about how they can stop Chelsea from playing their game. Man mark Jorginho resulted in cutting the passes to Eden Hazard. If Eden gets no ball, Chelsea scores nothing. Sarri replaced Jorginho with Cesc which was essentially the same plan but different identity. Cesc is a smart player. He outsmarted Evertonians but he was still playing in the same position, positive work but couldn’t create much impact.

The second thing which we all have observed that playing Eden Hazard as the false 9 has never been a good idea. You cannot and you should not put your best player in a position where he will get very less. You cannot use Hazard as the marker. No, never. He’s the one who will get the ball, provide an assist or score a worldly.

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Antonio Conte learned it, Hazard learned it but Sarri did not. Against Tottenham only if Giroud was brought ahead of Pedro in place of Morata, things would have been quite different, for sure. A because Hazard would play in his normal position with a license to roam at will and B he and Giroud understand each other more.

Why Olivier Giroud is not in the starting eleven? Morata has issues, clearly. Either he loves being offside more than anything or does not understand the opposition’s idea of holding the high wall. Willian’s form has started to dive straight into oblivion and soon, he won’t be featuring in the starting eleven given Pedro’s work rate. He should stop playing in Hazard’s shadow and restore the belief in himself. He is nowhere near the player who terrorized Barcelona earlier this year.

Kepa Arrizabalaga is the only one who had a bad day at the office. If it wasn’t for him the scoreline would have been an embarrassing. Though he has to take partial responsibility of the first two goals against Tottenham, all the goals before this game which he had conceded were all defensive errors. Its time Chelsea offloads Luiz and brings Christensen into the picture. The lad is young and promising and can lead the defense.

Jorginho’s mindset and his inability to outsmart the opposition should be the focal point of Sarri and Zola because two weeks from now Pep Guardiola and his beasts will visit Stamford Bridge. Chelsea still have games before an encounter with the unstoppable force. Will Maurizio Sarri work upon the weaknesses or will Chelsea suffer another embarrassing and humiliating defeat?

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Vivek Joshi
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