The win at the Amex Sadium was a much needed confidence boost after their rather eventful FA cup third round replay at home to Norwich on Wednesday. Chelsea had Pedro and Morata both suspended due to their red cards during the cup tie so Antonio Conte’s team selection was rather obvious. What wasn’t rather obvious, however, was the Blues’ renewed energy as their performance against Brighton broke their run of 5 straight draws (in regular time). Willy Caballero made good on his chance by making a string of great saves as well as coming for quite a few 50/50 balls aimed his way, showing his speed & confidence off his line.
Front 3 fluidity
Eden Hazard, Michy Batshuayi and Willian lined up in the front line of Chelsea’s front 3. Reverting to the 3-4-3 of last season, Hazard and Willian were the inside forwards of the system once more as they spent more time in central areas and half spaces than they did near the touchline. As a result Chelsea’s play was much faster and had more emphasis on finishing attacks rather than building off of failed ones. This gave Alonso and Moses more room to get forward and Moses benefitted from this as he got a goal during the game. This swift attacking link up helps question why Conte ever strayed from a successful formation.
Batshuayi brings new ideas
The Belgian front man started in place of Alvaro Morata and did well during the game. Although he didn’t score he got an assit which was a reward for his willingness to involve teammates and play others through on goal. It is also noteworthy that Chelsea didn’t play as much in the air as they do with Morata, playing to suit the Belgian’s pace. His movement is better than that of his Spanish teammate which is all the more impressive considering Morata is better in the air. With all these links about Chelsea wanting another striker, Conte should keep in mind that if he loses Batshuayi, he loses a different way of playing.
Chelsea’s press changes positively
Chelsea’s counter press was much sharper and it left Brighton panicking, especially in the early minutes when you look at how quickly they conceded. Bakayoko’s individual pressing also seems to have been improved as Conte has finally started to sort out the Frenchman’s role in his team. Brighton’s only chances came from poor Chelsea clearances or winning the occasional long ball. This change got Chelsea the right result and when you compare it to their passive, more relaxed press in recent weeks, they looked like a different team against Brighton. The Italian coach will hope this sticks for the rest of the season.
Next up for the West London club is their Carabao Cup semi final 2nd leg against Arsenal at the Emirates. Their London rivals are getting over the (almost certain) loss of Alexis Sanchez by putting a sorry Crystal Palace side to the sword with a quick fire 4-1 victory at home. Next weekend they face Newcastle United at home in the FA cup 4th round at Stamford Bridge before ending the month at home to Bournemouth in the league on January 31st. It remains to be seen if they use the market again.