With the various events clouding Chelsea’s pre-match preparation leading up to the game, a loss of points may have been understood. Diego Costa’s dramatic yet expected move back home to his beloved Atletico Madrid on and Tiemoue Bakayoko’s (thankfully) minor car crash must’ve caused his side some distraction but judging by their assertive & assured thumping of the Potters, Conte maintained a sense of level-headedness. With the two Manchester clubs leading the chasing pack by a slight margin, it was integral Chelsea kept up the pressure by any means necessary & by winning where other top sides have slipped up shows that.

Isolation of Stoke’s centre backs

Stoke’s back three began with the intention of limiting the space available in the last line of defence, in response, the inside forwards Willian & Pedro became loose in their positioning to draw Stoke’s centre backs out whilst Alvaro Morata targeted Glen Johnson for the majority of the game. Johnson, a right back (by trade) played as the RCB & considering his RWB is usually a striker, it was easy for Morata to get in behind him. Johnson no longer has the same locomotion he possessed during Liverpool’s title chasing season of 2013/14, so his lack of pace, strength & poor positioning cooked up a concoction for his downfall. The RWB Mame Diouf rarely dropped back to support Johnson allowing Morata to run on the former England international’s blind side on more than one occasion. On numerous occurrences, Alvaro Morata managed to find time to run off of Johnon’s shoulder to find himself in a 1v1 situation with Jack Butland (whom he scored 3 goals against by the final whistle). A hallmark of a potent attacker is being able to suss out the weak from the strong in order to prey on the weak & this is exactly what Alvaro Morata did. Stoke’s attempt to limit space backfired as ultimately, they were the ones who provided it.

Benefits of Chelsea’s back 3

Stoke’s medium-low block meant they only pressed Chelsea when they came just in front of the half way line. Combined with the low pressure being applied by Stoke’s front 3  allowed Chelsea’s centre backs to construct attacking moves from deep. With Rudiger, Christensen & Azpilicueta all being equally comfortable on the ball, it was easy to recycle the ball between them. Andreas Christensen in particular is a perfect alternative to David Luiz as both possess similar technical ability, which could partly explain why it is Kurt Zouma at Stoke on loan & not Andreas. With the opening goal coming from a perfectly weighted pass from Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Conte reaped the benefits of a technically-able back 3. Additionally, the defensively active pairing in front of them will win back any misplaced pass to restart any move that breaks down.

Wingback mismatch

When Chelsea faced Arsenal last weekend, their wingbacks were nullified in a way they hadn’t been before but against Stoke they had much more success. With Ramadan Sobhi & Mame Diouf acting as Stoke’s wingbacks Alonso & Moses found it easy to expose the lack of positional astute of their opposite numbers. Coupled with Johnson & Pieters as wide centre back, Stoke had 4 players out of their usual positions & this played right into the wise mind & hands of Antonio Conte. His experienced Chelsea side outplayed Stoke tactically by exposing all the flaws possible in a poor imitation of their 3-4-3 system. Marcos Alonso & Victor Moses knew when to stay wide or cut inside & when to hold their shape or push on, their telepathic understanding allows one of them to become the ‘fourth attacker’ whilst the other maintained the back four.

The win keeps Chelsea just three points of the Manchester clubs & the 4-0 win is vital in order for Chelsea to make up the goal difference on their rivals. With Eden Hazard slowly but surely reaching full fitness & David Luiz’s suspension coming to an end, Antonio Conte may not have to wait much longer to finally field his best team. Next up for the Blue’s is a visit from Pep Guardiola’s high flying Manchester City side. Fresh off of a 5-0 massacre of a substandard Crystal Palace team, they will be heading into the game in full spirit. This will be an important game in regarding the title race.