Chelsea fans were hoping for more reason to be cheerful today, following the recent acquisition of Ross Barkley for Everton on a 5 year deal costing a reported £15 million. What they weren’t expecting was a hard fought game against a rugged Norwich City side that sit 13th in the Championship. Off the pitch issues such as Antonio Conte’s war of words with Jose Mourinho may well have been a distraction to the Blues. This isn’t to excuse their poor performance as they struggled to score against Norwich who also had a terrific game, pressing with intelligence & speed throughout the whole game.
High press gives Chelsea nerves
Whenever Chelsea had a goal kick, all 3 of their centre backs provided immediate options. Rudiger stood on the right hand side of the box, Cahill on the left & Luiz being the most direct option for Caballero. The goalkeeper played the ball short to the Brazilian who comes under immediate pressure from Norwich’s front line, almost scoring an own goal in the process. This press was sustained for most of the game, restricting the amount of chances Chelsea could create from deep. The away side did win the ball in the opposing half quite a few times but lacked the cutting edge to punish the Londoners.
Wingbacks fail to create chances
In a largely rotated side, Kenedy making his first start of the season at LWB whilst Zappacosta started at RWB, this pairing has rarely (if ever) started for Chelsea. There are questions over whether Kenedy can perform at wing back as he is a natural winger who can do well going forward but during the game his positional intelligence was regularly brought into question. On the other side, Davide Zappacosta offered almost no attacking threat in comparison to the contribution Chelsea’s first choice wingbacks. He was just about adequate defensively but was suspect when it came to defending against counter attacks. Wingbacks are a huge part of Chelsea’s system going forward & what they fail, more often than not, so does the team.
Murphy & Pritchard run riot
Norwich also lined up in a 3-4-3 to make it easier to combat Chelsea’s shape. Josh Murphy (brother of Newcastle’s Jacob) started on the left whilst Alex Pritchard started on the right. Despite both being the wingers they had very different roles. Murphy’s job was to keep wide & beat Zappacosta 1v1 (which he did a lot) whilst Alex Pritchard came inside to combine with his central teammates whilst also freeing up space for his RWB in Ivo Pinto. Norwich did excellently in their individual battles & won a lot of space, their only problem was using it effectively to win the game.
The draw has caused a bit of a pain for Chelsea logistically as their replay against the Canaries is now 6 days after their first leg tie at home to Arsenal in the Carabao Cup. It may also be a good chance to steal a good result against the Gooners since Arsene Wenger’s side has just lost to Nottingham Forest in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. This should allow Conte’s men to build a good advantage to take into the second leg, pushing them further towards the final. Before that however, Chelsea will need to address their own issues.