Chelsea’s unbeaten run under new manager Graham Potter continued against Manchester United this weekend, although the Blues were fortunate to escape Stamford Bridge with a point following a disappointing performance.
Make no mistake; Chelsea looked like a side that’s around 25/1 to win the Premier League this season, and while you may think this offers value (you can learn how to sign-up to linebet here), it hints that there’s much work to be done for Potter to build a truly successful side.
But what exactly did we learn from Saturday’s game, and how can the Blues improve going forward? Let’s get into it!
#1. Potter is Struggling to Find his Midfield Balance
In the drab, 0-0 draw at Brentford last week, Potter selected Jorginho and Connor Gallagher in midfield in his preferred 3-4-2-1 formation, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek deployed at wing-back in the absence of Reece James.
Against Manchester United, Loftus-Cheek reverted to a central role alongside Jorginho, with César Azpilicueta moving to right wing-back in an inherently defensive move.
In both outings, however, Chelsea’s midfield lacked positional sense, intensity and sheer numbers, with Manchester United’s trio of Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and the busy Bruno Fernandes creating passing triangles through the middle of the park and dominating the space.
To Potter’s credit, he bought on Mateo Kovacic before half-time and switched to a midfield diamond, creating an overload in the middle of the park and forcing United to change their own shape in the second half.
Still, he continues to struggle for the right balance in his midfield, while the situation is not helped by the surfeit of players that the Blues have in this position.
#2. Reece James’ Absence Continues to be an Issue
During a first half that United dominated, it appeared at times as though Chelsea had one too many defensive-minded players on the pitch.
This was reinforced by the use of Azpilicueta at right wing-back, as the Blues continue to struggle in the absence of James and find it increasingly difficult to strike the ideal balance between defence and attack.
They certainly miss James’ penetration and energy on the flank, with the England international often playing high up the park and providing a constant source of attacking width.
The club definitely need to strengthen in this area even if they’re to provide adequate backup to James in the future, but in the meantime, his absence is an even bigger problem for the Blues.
#3. Sterling Epitomises Chelsea’s Profligacy
Raheem Sterling was Thomas Tuchel’s primary transfer target last summer, with the club ultimately spending nearly £50 million on the England international and making him Chelsea’s best-paid player on a contract worth £300,000-a-week.
However, while he remains the Blues’ top scorer this season, he has scored just four times in 13 matches, while he failed to either have a shot or create a single chance in his 79 minutes of play at the weekend.
At the same time, fellow Tuchel signing Aubameyang has scored three goals in seven matches to date, while penalty maestro Jorginho has the same number of goals to his name this season.
In this respect, Sterling is epitomising Chelsea’s goalscoring woes and tactical confusion, especially as he has been deployed at wing-back on three separate occasions by Potter so far.