After a hard-fought draw against Arsenal in the Premier League last weekend, Chelsea turned their attention to the League Cup, or the Carabao Cup, as it is now known. Nottingham Forest of the Championship were the visitors at Stamford Bridge and were swept aside by a mixture of youth and experience. The game ended 5-1, with Forest grabbing a consolation in the dying seconds of the match, which would not have pleased Conte.
Here are the talking points from an entertaining game of football.
#1 Youth & Young Manhood
Charly Musonda had been waiting five years for this, according to the young man himself. It was his first start for Chelsea and he was not the only youngster in line for a senior appearance. Jake Clarke-Salter, Dujon Sterling and baby Ethan Ampadu were all on the bench alongside more experienced hands. But making it to the bench is one thing, getting on the pitch for more than a couple of minutes, is quite another. It was a pleasant surprise when Conte brought on all three youth players and gave them a significant number of minutes. One swallow does not a summer make, but it was very encouraging to see the teenage trio hold their own against seasoned opponents.
#2 The Kenedy Redemption
In summer, the Brazilian made a serious error of judgment on social media and was disciplined by the club, while also receiving a warning from the FA. He was on the verge of being loaned out but only stayed because other deals did not go through. There seemed to be no way back into the first team for him. This changed when the manager decided to give him another chance to move on from his mistake, and gave him a start at left wingback. One goal, one accidental assist and one well-rounded performance later, Kenedy just might have done enough to be Alonso’s understudy for the remainder of the season.
#3 The Monster In Midfield
With N’Golo Kante recharging his batteries behind the subs bench, Tiemoue Bakayoko partnered Cesc Fabregas in midfield. ‘Partnered’ would be understating the Frenchman’s performance. He was everywhere – tackling, intercepting, driving forward with the ball, then hustling back to win it and recycle possession. This allowed Fabregas to dictate the pace of play and ping those long passes that strikers love to latch onto. Outstanding.
#4 Musonda Makes Merry
It was worth the wait, wasn’t it? Charly Musonda had an excellent game and scored a great goal, which sort of overwhelmed him. He almost got another one, but missed by inches. The Belgian was a menace to opposition defenders throughout, was fouled several times and generally had fun on the pitch. As Conte alluded to in his post-match interview, the boy has all the skills but needs to bulk up a bit. That should be the easy part.
#5 The Mentorship of Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard finally completed an entire 90 minutes of football for Chelsea and seemed to be getting back to his best. He hit the post with an effort while making a nuisance of himself all over the pitch, then created the simplest of opportunities for Batshuayi to score his second. He could have easily scored it himself, but unselfishly gave it up. The 26-year-old is the elder statesman amongst his Belgian compatriots, and he did not hesitate in taking a step back so his younger teammates could do their thing.
Chelsea will now play Everton in the next round of the Carabao Cup. But before that, there’s the small matter of Stoke City away, when the big guns should be back, rested and re-energized.