To put it simply, a lacklustre Stoke City side wondered straight into Stamford Bridge for a battering. A rampant yet rotated Chelsea side put their chances away & reaped the rewards. They were aggressive & concentrated throughout & having Hazard starting on the bench did little to affect their overall creativity. Stoke on the other hand did little to ensure their deep block remained compact & rarely created any sustained attacks. It was another abysmal performance by Mark Hughes’ side but at the same time, the 5-0 thumping by the hosts push them into second place after Manchester United’s 0-0 draw to Southampton at Old Trafford.
Chelsea protect against the counter
Stoke City were weak going forward, the aimed to clear the ball as quick as possible instead of trying to build up from deep. Danny Drinkwater came into the line up for Bakayoko and the Englishman is superior on the ball by being able to control games from deep whilst also being a better shot taker. This left Stoke in disarray because if they sat deep it gave Drinkwater room to operate under less pressure but if they push up it provided more space for Chelsea to make runs in behind. This lack of decisiveness meant it was easy for Chelsea to pin them back within their own half, resulting with a great goal by Drinkwater.
Gaps arise in Stoke’s block
Eden Hazard started on the bench today but that gave Willian & Pedro more chance to perform. Both making good on their chances, Willian recorded 2 assists & 1 goal whilst Pedro also got on the score sheet (assisted by none other than the Brazilian). The pair operated the half-spaces to good effect, destabilising Stoke’s core in the process. They punished Stoke’s inability to maintain vertical compactness by making use of quick combination play. To compound the away side’s problems Alonso & Moses made their way into the box to draw in their opposing fullbacks. This left Stoke’s defensive midfielders chasing the ball or isolated. The lack of organisation and leadership within the Stoke team was costly yet excellently punished by Chelsea.
High midfield line an advantage
Chelsea had 59% possession & 21 shots all game whilst Stoke City had just 1 (on target) effort all game. This was a result of Chelsea’s mid-block causing a vast amount of turnovers which caught a slow Stoke side during transitions. With Chelsea pressing from the half way line & their defence going no deeper than the edge of their box, Stoke found it hard to penetrate Chelsea’s high midfield line, furthermore if they did manage too then one of the three centre backs would intervene. Stoke’s players would get caught out of position and their lack of effort to reform their shape cost them.
Next up for the Blues is an away trip to the Emirates to face rivals Arsenal. It will be the first of three meetings over the course of the next month with a place in the Carabao Cup final also at stake. The game on Wednesday will give Conte a good idea as to how to approach their next two encounters. 2017 has provided Chelsea with many ups and downs on (and off) the pitch. 2018 is sure to bring tougher challenges with both cup competitions, Barcelona in the champions league and catching Manchester City are all issues that have to be addressed.