Maurizio Sarri predicted his first season at the helm of the Blues. He foresaw his side dropping points in the first half of the season as they got accustomed to his new methods, winning more points towards the end of the season. Now, he can feel right about Chelsea finally clicking into gear as the statistics prove in our tactical analysis, the Blues might finally have their minds and the right players together.
Chelsea endured an indifferent festive period after a great start, beating champions Manchester City at the bridge but losing to Wolves and Leicester in December, before losing to Spurs and Arsenal in January. The goalscoring problems over this period have been well-documented, inability to hit the net was behind most of those negative results.
The deflating losses away to Tottenham in the League Cup and Arsenal in the league laid bare the problems, the players were finding it hard to score goals and lacked the proper levels of motivation and desire.
The defeat of Spurs in the Carabao Cup semi-final was exactly what the doctor ordered; a win over 90 minutes and on penalties, penalty-saving heroics and a place in a cup final. Here are FIVE more reasons to look forward to the blues kicking on to have a brilliant season.
This has to be the turning point in Chelsea’s season, why? The players gave a very positive reaction to Sarri’s criticism of their mentality after the Arsenal defeat.
The players were clearly up for the fight and the best players in the squad, Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante put in masterful performances, each scoring a goal and resonating their commitment to the cause.
Kante had a somewhat appetising reaction to his opening goal, signalling to the player who picked the ball from the net in a gesture which screamed: “come on!!!” Obvious fire in his belly and it was clear the comeback was on.
Other leaders in the squad; David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta also registered solid performances. Each dispatching their penalties with aplomb.
N’Golo Kante‘s fourth goal of the season against Spurs further outlined his emergence in his new role under Sarri. His goals in 30 appearances this season match his total output in 129 appearances in English football.
Kante is evidently relishing his new role under Sarri, it might not be his best position and the fans might not like it, but N’Golo keeps getting better, move on with it.
Eden Hazard faced so much heat in the last week following Sarri’s criticism. He was at the forefront of most of the talk of a fragile mentality within the squad, even being mentioned by his manager for not being a leader.
Hazard has always admitted to not being a natural-born leader, preferring to do his talking on the pitch and inspire with his performances.
Back in his preferred position on the left wing, he duly responded with a superb performance. Worrying the Spurs backline at every opportunity with driving runs and five chances created for teammates, Hazard drew three fouls and had four shots, one of which was his 13th goal of the season.
He would be glad his days in the ‘false nine’ position are over following the loan arrival of Gonzalo Higuain.
Emerson Palmieri has been on the fringes for all of his Chelsea career. Marcos Alonso’s abysmal form for most of the campaign has been all the more frustrating because Emerson has been under-used.
Sarri’s only explanation for sticking with Alonso as first-choice is his height and his threat from dead-balls. Emerson meanwhile, has been professional throughout and continues to impress whenever he’s called upon.
The pacy left-back offers agility and adventure in his play and seems a better suit to the manager’s style, he’s such a good crosser of the ball where ironically Alonso’s crossing statistics have been abysmal this season.
Emerson looks a better fit than Alonso at everything right now and he has a good free-kick in him, he surely deserves a chance to impress and it’s only a matter of time before that happens. On the evidence of his performance against Spurs, he would seamlessly replace the Spaniard.
Gonzalo Higuain has been a prolific goalscorer everywhere he has been, 229 goals in 407 career appearances for some big teams is something to be excited about. His loan signing for the rest of the season raised some doubts but crucially, he was the manager’s choice.
He simply scores goals anywhere he goes and having an experienced winner about in the squad would only do Chelsea good. That Higuain understands the manager’s methods and shares a special relationship with him could be pivotal.
His natural goalscoring instincts could be the difference between a point and three, something Chelsea have thoroughly lacked this season. Higuain is good at link-up play and offers a deadly presence in the box with his movement. He would be looking to link up with Hazard and the rest of the team to good effect, fingers crossed he has a decent spell at Chelsea and breaks the curse of the number nine shirt.
The squad are pulling in the same direction and the right attitude seems to be applied at the moment. The club are doing what they can to back the manager to succeed, a cup final beckons in less than a month so hopefully that comes sooner rather than later. The players only need to keep these levels of motivation to ensure this truly is the turning point in our season. It’s easier said than done, though.
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