Crisis? What crisis? Forgive me if you’ve heard this before, but when the club seemingly finds itself in “crisis” every other week, it is necessary to have a laugh when the results don’t agree with the hypothesis. This time, it was a 1-0 win over the mighty Manchester United, who were made to look pedestrian by a wonderful Chelsea performance.
Here are the talking points from a thrilling game of football.
#1 David vs Goliath
During the week, there were reports of a falling out between Conte and a few key players. Of course, such reports are easy to manufacture when times are tough but with Chelsea, you get the feeling there’s no smoke without fire. So when the news broke on matchday, that David Luiz had travelled separately from the rest of the team, it looked like there was some truth in the rumours. Luiz found himself left out of the squad entirely, along with international relations expert and sleep consultant, Kenedy. Andreas Christensen took the place of the curly haired one in central defence, with young Ethan Ampadu filling Kenedy’s spot on the bench. Conte called it a tactical decision to omit Luiz before the game, but in a post-match interview he warned that Luiz must do better or he’ll be on the bench or in the stands.
#2 The Engine Purrs
N’Golo Kante is a modern-day marvel. Everyone knows that. Without him, this Chelsea side can appear as disjointed as it has done for a few weeks now. With the diminutive Frenchman back in the starting eleven, Conte chose to go with three in midfield. The presence of Kante allowed Bakayoko to do an impression of Yaya Toure lite, barging his way up the pitch at will and uh, missing several chances to score a goal. But the greatest beneficiary of Kante’s mopping up in front of defence, was Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard dictated the pace of the game, kept popping up in spaces in tandem with an excellent Eden Hazard and provided the sort of creativity that left United chasing shadows in midfield. To understand what Conte is trying to do now that he has his best midfielders all fit and available, just have a look at some of his lineups when he was managing Juventus.
#3 What Could Have Been
The tale of the Lukaku and Morata transfers has been written hundreds of times already. It involves quite a bit of snubbing and more than a few people claiming they were the ‘snub-er’ and not the ‘snub-ee’. This was the first time the two big money strikers lined up against each other this season, each eager to show their opponents what they missed out on. On the evidence of this display, clearly, Chelsea didn’t miss out on much; I’d say they got the better deal. While Lukaku had one shot and zero touches in the Chelsea box, Morata was causing all sorts of trouble to the United defence even before he scored that glorious header. His movement was intelligent, he combined well with his teammates and was always looking to create something. Phil Jones won’t forget him in a hurry.
#4 That Danish Defender
“Andreas Christensen is the present and the future of Chelsea,” answered Antonio Conte when quizzed about the young Dane’s performance. And he is right. Christensen is turning out to be one of the best young defenders in the league. He is accomplished in playing out from the back and has maturity beyond his years. And crucially, he can defend well, too. We can’t know what happened behind the scenes between Conte and Luiz, but if the Brazilian needed a kick up the arse to get his act together, Christensen’s performance must have given him plenty of food for thought. The youngster has now played against Manchester City, Spurs and Manchester United this season already, and has only added to his reputation. If they’re good enough, they’re old enough. And this boy is good.
#5 Getting Deeper
With Drinkwater finally available for selection and Kante also back from injury, the midfield that looked threadbare just a few weeks ago is now teeming with talent. Only Victor Moses is the long-term absentee in a squad that is looking healthier than it did at the start of the season. If Chelsea can stay within sight of Manchester City until the end of the year, we could still put up a fight to retain our crown.
It’s always good to enter the international break on the back of a win, especially one as important as this. Chelsea play West Bromwich Albion after the break, hoping to build on this victory and chase down the trio above them in the table.