Chelsea’s stuttering pre-season went from bad to worse over the weekend, as the Blues suffered a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of London rivals Arsenal in the Florida Cup final.
Gabriel Jesus, Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Albert Sambi Lokonga scored as the Gunners put their bitter rivals to the sword, with Chelsea looking particularly vulnerable defensively and potentially undercooked as the new season approaches.
This makes a mockery of the early EPL winner odds, with Chelsea priced at around 18/1 while the Gunners can be backed at a whopping 50/1 to lift the title. While neither side is favourite to prevail, those of you using the Natural8 Bonus Code and looking to place a bet may want to avoid backing the Blues at present.
But what are the three key lessons we learned from the Blues defeat? Here’s a brief breakdown:
#1. Chelsea’s Defensive Struggles Continue
While it’s pre-season and Arsenal are clearly further along in their preparations than the Blues, Chelsea’s defensive struggles are becoming more stark with every passing game.
Certainly, Trevoh Chalobah struggled manfully against Arsenal’s fluid attack, while his profligacy in possession directly contributed to Jesus’ opening goal for the Gunners.
The Blues also missed the departed Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger (who have yet to be replaced), while the Blues’ lack of centre backs compelled Thomas Tuchel to adopt an unfamiliar 4-2-3-1 formation that left Chelsea looking exposed at times.
Of course, the Blues’ struggles were put into true context by Arsenal’s outstanding defensive performance, with the precocious William Saliba excelling at centre half alongside Gabriel. Still, it’s an area that requires much work ahead of the new season.
#2. Mendy’s Distribution Woes Continue
While Edouard Mendy enjoyed a stellar season in the EPL through 2021/22, his distribution emerged as a real weakness following a series of high profile errors (including a calamitous mistake from which Karim Benzema benefited during the Champions League quarter finals).
Mendy will have done little to assuage these concerns against Arsenal, with his kicking particularly poor once again. An early pass went directly out of play, while he also gifted possession to Granit Xhaka in a dangerous position as the first half progressed.
Before half time, another wayward kick handed possession straight to the Gunners, with the subsequent move finished by Martin Odegaard as Arsenal doubled their lead.
This is an issue that Mendy has publicly acknowledged and continues to work on, but it’s also something that further exacerbates Chelsea’s defensive woes and uncertainty as the new season approaches.
#3. Sterling and Koulibaly Show Promise
This game also saw Raheem Sterling complete his first Chelsea start, while new defensive powerhouse Kalidou Koulibaly made his debut from the bench in the second half.
Sterling certainly showed glimpses of his quality, with the England international arguably the brightest of Chelsea’s front four. Although he came off at half time, he embarked on some excellent runs at the Arsenal defence, while one through ball to the misfiring Timo Werner also caught the eye.
As for Koulibaly, he initially introduced some presence to the Chelsea defence and made a particularly impressive recovery challenge to deny Nicolas Pepe. However, he also struggled on the ball, gifting possession to Marquinhos as Arsenal pressed before hauling down Eddie Nketiah and earning himself a yellow card.
Ultimately, the new signings were among the brightest lights on show, and this will offer some encouragement to Tuchel as he looks to build towards the new season.