After the Champion’s League game between AS Roma and Chelsea, we bring you the things we learnt from the game. Read.
Every club misses its important players whenever they are unavailable for selection, talk about Paul Pogba, Harry Kane. It wouldn’t be a shame to say that Chelsea is missing Ngolo Kante. The 26 year old French man has grown his reputation since arriving the English Premier League from French club Cean in 2015. Joining Leicester in the summer and helping them lift the league that same season, after which he left for Chelsea and lifted the league trophy with them in 2017. He becomes the second ever player to lift the Premier league trophy consecutively with two different teams, and the ninth player to lift the trophy with two different clubs.
Kante’s arrival at Chelsea was to add steel to the midfield and provide shield for the back three. Breaking up play and laying of a simple pass to a more attacking player. A role he was familiar with during his time at Leicester, and one he carried out to perfection. The introduction of Kante to the Chelsea midfield allowed coach Antonio Conte to tinker with his midfield pairing. Pairing Kante and Fabregas or Kante and Matic when he wanted more defensive solidity. Kante’s importance to the title run wasn’t to be debated. He made 35 league appearances and in those appearances Chelsea won 27 and lost only 5. In those games he made 127 tackles with a 65% success, making 82 interceptions and 41 clearances with zero error leading to goal in that same period.
The purchase of Tiemoue Bakayoko was heralded by the Chelsea fan-base as a master stroke which we all agree to. With Bakayoko’s role in Monaco’s title winning campaign, we all knew it was a good piece of business. One thing is sure, Bakayoko is not a Kante type of player. Kante is a water Carrier, a shield for the defence. Bakayoko is a player who drives the team from midfield, though he isn’t a Fabregas type of player too. Pairing Bakayoko and Fabregas against AS Roma was Chelsea’s undoing. It left there midfield exposed as there was no real shield for the defence. This pairing may work against smaller teams, but against bigger teams who look to expose any weakness this may not work. We are not trying to say that Bakayoko is not a good player or trying to undermine his contributions to the team. He brings a different dimension to the Chelsea midfield. But the truth remains he isn’t a proper defensive midfielder in the real sense of it. One who can be tasked to protect the Chelsea back three. Though Chelsea had the better possession with 51% but any time AS Roma got the break, they strolled past the midfield. In the six games Ngolo Kante has missed this season, Chelsea has conceded 11 times and kept only one clean sheet.
With little option in the midfield to fill in the shoes of the missing French man, further questions may be asked why Chelsea had to sell Nemanja Matic.
With success comes added responsibility, and with added responsibility comes added pressure, and with added pressure comes the need to re-adapt. Chelsea boasted the second meanest defence in the Premier League last season. This was largely due to their defensive pairing consistency last season. With the arrival of Antonio Rudiger and the arrival of Andreas Christensen, things were supposed to get better. Owing to the added competition, rotation was necessary, but picking and chopping isn’t what we understand as rotation. In the 17 games Chelsea has played this season, Conte has played nine different defensive combinations, and have only retained the same back three once. The need for rotation cannot be over emphasized, but constant chopping affects the balance of a team. It is little wonder the Chelsea defence looked confused yesterday, with the defenders constantly moving across the back three, in and out of the team, with ever changing team mates. Little wonder they have just kept five clean sheets all season.
MORATA MAY BE ON A DRY SPELL
Upon his arrival, the Spaniard has been an instant hit. Having netted 7 times already in his first eight games in the league, the 25 year old has taken to the premier league like duck to water. But much like we know strikers face dry spells. Some for short periods and others for longer periods. This may be Morata’s dry spell.
Morata is yet to score a goal in six consecutive games. When the game was still at 1:0, he missed a really good chance to level up. Kolarov’s clearance had hit Pedro and landed at Morata’s feet six yards out. The Spaniard was not expecting the ball and blazed it way over. He was replaced by Batshuayi with 15 minutes remaining with his confidence looking knocked.
EPL CLUBS CAN LEARN FROM ROMA
In their champion’s league game against Chelsea, Roma played a balanced game. Carrying out their attacking and defensive duties with perfection. Picking when to attack and maintaining their defensive shape. With this, they nullified Chelsea’s attack and stung them when they went forward.
Premier league clubs can learn from this. Not solely being attacking and forgetting the defensive aspect of the game as it’s with the top half clubs, or neither being overly defensive and forgetting the attacking side of the game as it’s with the bottom half clubs.