Following their disappointing Carabao Cup semi final exit to London rivals Arsenal, Conte will have in the back of his mind that the FA Cup is the most realistic piece of Chelsea can aim for at this stage of the season. There was no rest for the wicked as Conte made just 4 changes for today’s game from the team that lost 2-1 at the Emirates. Michy Batshuayi came into the starting line up and made good on his chance, scoring 2. Callum Hudson-Odoi also made his much awaited debut. It was an all round solid performance from Antonio Conte’s boys at the Bridge.
Combinations kill Newcastle
Newcastle’s back 5 was behind a midfield 3 than offered little defensive protection. Both lines took far too long to engage in 1v1s with their counterparts and this cost them, Hazard and Pedro are specialists in deep block destruction and their sharp passing dragged Newcastle around with ease. Due to being slow to react, Newcastle’s defenders left gaps in many key areas which allowed Chelsea to have numerous shots on goal from inside the box, an inconsistent approach to defending cost Rafa Benitez’s side heavily.
Away side can’t get out
Off the ball, Chelsea’s press varied from a 5-4-1 to a 5-3-2 and to a 3-4-3, depending on the ball’s position. When Newcaslte had the ball in the middle of the pitch Chelsea were in a 5-4-1, when the ball moved into the right half-space or to the fullback, Barkley would come inwards, forming a loose 5-3-2 and when Newcastle passed backwards, Chelsea shifted to a very aggressive 3-4-3 press to force a long ball that they’d win. Newcastle could’ve avoided being forced to play into Chelsea’s hands had they been more confident in the middle of the park but they played right into the Blues’ hands.
The young Welshman has been getting more and more chances under his Italian coach, as it seems that he seems mature enough to warrant first team minutes at just 17 years old. He is able to play as a defensive midfielder and also at centre back so his versatility is a perfect match for this system and when you add in the fact that he’s outstandingly confident and competent on the ball, there is no reason why he can’t become one of Chelsea’s best defenders in years to come. During all his cameos thus far he has always looked for a progressive pass and this is something Conte, Ryan Giggs and any other coach he has, shouldn’t take out of his game.
Chelsea are now in the hat for the FA cup 5th round draw and with Arsenal & Liverpool already out as well as Tottenham Hotspur heading for a replay, Antonio Conte will be confident in knowing some of the bigger dogs haven’t had a straight forward run. Chelsea face Bournemouth at home, Watford away and then West Brom at home before embarking on a 7 game run where they face 3 of the current top 6 as well as FC Barcelona twice in the UEFA Champions League in the round of 16. February and March will be the toughest months in Chelsea’s calendar so far.