Below are my five main lessons we learned from our victory 4-0 Champions League win against Malmo on the 21st October 2021 in Stamford Bridge.
1. Chelsea’s attack-oriented approach results in a positive result
Before this game there was much discussion regarding the character of Chelsea’s win by 1-0 against Brentford.
The Blues must fight and scrape to hold out a fierce assault from the Bees in the last twenty minutes of the game however, the offensive side of the final score in the case of their team of European Champions was very underwhelming.
According to the ‘The xG Philosophy’, Chelsea’s anticipated goals for the game were 0.28, and most astonishingly, 0.02! It wasn’t the first time in this season when Chelsea’s expected goals have not been met. Blues have scored goals that were expected to not been on par with the standard of what is expected from real Premier League title contenders.
In that context, Tuchel knew that his Blues had to get from the gate firing to clarify the situation – Chelsea are more than a solid defense but also have an incredibly powerful attack! In this game the hosts began with a ferocious intensity and determination.
The team in darker blue looked like they had something to prove at the start, with the majority of the squad residing in Malmo’s half. Among them was Captain Azpilicueta who would often be in the middle of the attack as did Chilwell and Kante quite high up on the pitch!
The final score was that the Blues scored four goals, 2 of which were penalties (should have scored the third) and could’ve scored two more on a different day. Even though the opposition looked weak in terms of paper however, the Blues produced a convincing performance from start to finish in the end. Malmo were limited to an xG value of 0.07.
2. Blues cruise, but at what price?
As we’ve already mentioned as well, the Blues were a total force in their game against Malmo. In the words of ESPN that they were the dominant team in possession (73 percent) and shot 20 times to just 2, with 7 of these being on target as in comparison to zero for Malmo.
Unfortunately, for Thomas Tuchel and the Chelsea supporters, both of the top forwards Romelu Lukaku, and Timo Werner suffered ankle and injury to the hamstrings, respectively.
With Romelu the player, he was knocked down after a brutal challenge, which resulted in his first red card for the Blues however, Werner’s German speedster Werner’s injury to his hamstring was less serious because he seemed to keep it in place while pulling back from a sprint towards the goal.
Although there’s no official confirmation of the severity to which the injured are suffering, it is believed that they’ll be absent at the very least for the Norwich match on the 23rd of October and perhaps the Southampton Carabao Cup tie a couple of days after that.
The final result was that the Blues got a comfortable three points, but at what price? The time will tell.
3. Jorginho’s return to the club is perfect.
One of the main topics of discussion in the Chelsea community is the midfield’s composition. Although the players who compose the middle of the Blues are a good fit There are still questions about which one is the most efficient combination, considering their various capabilities and strengths.
Recently Chelsea’s’regista’ as well as frequent winner (at least in this year) Jorginho has not been the most important factor in Tuchel’s team selection. However, there is a surprise return of academy-based player Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has been on a roll.
In light of this, and Tuchel’s preference to rely on the legendary N’Golo Kante following his covid-induced absence, as well as the impressive form that is Croatian superstar Mateo Kovacic, the Italian Euro winner is in a race to secure his place as a Blues midfield.
In the wake of his reintroduction to the squad, Jorginho stepped up in many ways.
In addition, he convert both the Chelsea spot-kicks but also his overall statistics were awe-inspiring with 104 touches with 12 ball recoveries, eight duels 10 passes in the last third of the field, four touches in the box of the opponent eight tackles, and three interceptions.
These kinds of performances could change the balance of the Ballon D’or to his advantage.
4. Havertz and Hudson-Odoi seize opportunity
The Chelsea frontmen Romelu Lukaku as well as Time Werner suffered their respective injuries, the reactions of the Blues fans both on the internet and on the ground was to drop their heads in dismay.
Although they share distinct characteristics, both Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi (CHO) enough to fill the gap in this match.
The two players worked hard and played well together during the game, their most memorable moment occurring just after the break when CHO utilized his blistering speed and dribbling to torch an ineffectual Malmo before teeing the German rising star to skillfully place the ball into the net’s back.
CHO almost made it on the scoresheet, too, thanks to one of his well-struck shots being pushed away by Diawarra’s substitute goalkeeper while Havertz nearly doubled his score after he failed to make it through the middle of Jorginho’s and Mount’s whipped in crosses.
Overall it was a positive performance from both of the talented attackers. The main problem is whether they can keep it up in the event that Lukaku as well as Werner not be available for a prolonged period?
As a bonus it was interesting to observe CHO being used in his supposedly preferred left wing position, and connecting perfectly with Chilwell was an absolute positive and the pair could create an effective relationship should Tuchel continue to work with the duo.
5. The regular back three can make all the difference
One thing that stood out in “the incredible Brentford escape’ just a few days prior was the absence in the absence of Thiago Silva as well as Antonio Rudiger.
Although the third and fourth players during the game did great work, as did the man-of-the-match Mendy in keeping the Bees at away the experience and style that those who played German and Brazilian were certainly not lost.
Apart from the security and protection that the world-class pair provide, and when combined with the excellent Dane and his partner in crime Andreas Christensen, collectively they are the total package in what is needed in the modern-day central defense.
Together, they played the ball swiftly and quickly to begin Chelsea’s attacking and then expertly set themselves up in the middle of the pitch to regain possession in the change; remained focused in defence despite the odd counter, and added a new dimension to Chelsea’s attacking (refer Silva’s pin-point pass to Christensen scoring his debut Blues goal, and Rudiger’s play to draw the Chelsea second penalty).
While the main function of defensive players is to stop the opponent from scoring however, it is becoming increasingly important for defensive players to be able to assist in the team’s attack e.g. by helping to build up the attack and also providing an additional presence in the areas of danger for the opposition.
The Chelsea’s odds of winning are dramatically increased!
4 goals were scored and no goals scored – this is the type of performance that the team required!
Thomas Tuchel’s team were in control throughout the game, and truly looked like an outfit worthy of being known as”the” European Champions.
Undoubtedly prompted by the current story that was forming in the media suggesting that the Blues were more fortunate than meritorious that they were, this was exactly the type of reaction both Tuchel and fans had hoped to get.
Although the injuries sustained by Lukaku as well as Werner are very tragic and could be a significant damper on the general mood for Blues supporters, the inner optimist within me thinks about the following quote from legendary Alexander Graham Bell: ‘ when one door shuts and another one is opened‘.
Keep that thought in mind and seeing players like Havertz and CHO doing well, with Pulisic’s long-awaited return is on the future, and players like Ziyech looking to impress for the sake of keeping their Blues career going, maybe the lack from Lukaku and Werner could force the other players to take advantage of their chance. Here’s hoping!