Chelsea (A) | Pre-match Review
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
Chelsea vs Sheffield United 31/08/2019
English Premier League
Last week, Chris Wilder’s side faced a team some have backed to finish in the top 6, this week they face a team some have backed to finish outside the top 6.
Last Time Out
Chelsea 3 (Shevchenko 4, Kalou 17, Ballack 58) - 0 Sheffield United 17/03/2007
This game will be remembered most by Sheffield United fans for the injury to Rob Hulse, who, according to Warnock’s 2008 Autobiography was in consideration for a call up to the England National Team by then manager, Steve McClaren. Hulse would remain the Blades’ top goalscorer that season with 8 goals.
Chelsea, had one eye on a FA Cup quarter final replay against Tottenham 2 days later and made changes with that in mind.
They played a 4-4-2 , as opposed to their usual 4-3-3 played under Jose Mourinho which featured; Solomon Kalou and Andriy Shevchenko up top, flanked by Shaun Wright-Phillips and Arjen Robben.
Against a back 4 of Geary, Claude Davis, Morgan and Armstrong, United were always going to struggle and found themselves 2-0 down after 17 minutes.
They did have a couple of chances following the second goal through a long range effort from Colin-Kazim Richards and an overhead kick from Hulse, who came close once more before colliding with Cech.
Michael Ballack came on at half time for their now manager Frank Lampard and got a third, heading the ball past a flapping Paddy Kenny from a Wright-Phillips free kick.
A run of 5 straight draws in April meant that Chelsea would miss out on the title to Manchester United and they were also knocked out by Liverpool in the semi finals of the Champions League on penalties. In what was Mourinho’s last full season at the club before returning in 2013, they did seal the League Cup and FA Cup with wins over Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.
Sheffield United would go on to be relegated after losing at home to Wigan on the final day.
Summer at Chelsea
Notable Ins: Mateo Kovacic (£40.2m, Real Madrid)
Notable Outs: Eden Hazard (£88.5m, Real Madrid), Ola Aina (£8.8m, Torino), Tomáš Kalas (£8m, Bristol City), David Luiz (£8m, Arsenal), Davide Zappacosta (Loan, Roma), Gary Cahill (Free, Crystal Palace)
Eden Hazard finally made his long awaited move to Real Madrid, David Luiz moved across London after being informed that his time at the club was at an end, despite only extending his contract with the club in May. They also said goodbye to one of their longest serving players (9 years, 4 appearances and 7 loan moves) in Tomáš Kalas, whose most rememberable game for the club will have been the 2-0 victory over Liverpool in 2014, which stopped them from winning the title.
Club record goalscorer Frank Lampard returned to the club after Maurizio Sarri moved to Juventus, replacing the outgoing Massimiliano Allgeri. Who was touted as a possible replacement, he did an Elvis Costello and said ‘I don’t want to go to Chelsea’. He’s continued with a sabbatical which you would imagine will carry on until the end of the season.
Lampard’s appointment brings a feel good factor. Their academy is full of young players who didn’t get a chance under previous regimes, their fans grew tired of not just ‘Sarriball’ which we never really saw compared to the football his Napoli side played, but Sarri’s indifference to give younger players in the squad (albeit he did eventually play Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi) game time and a lack of enthusiasm to immerse himself within the club.
Despite finishing 3rd and winning the Europa League, it is doubtful he’ll be remembered in a hurry.
The appointment of a club legend Lampard and former player and FA Youth Cup winning coach in Jody Morris, is an opportunity to get fans back on board in what could be a difficult period for the club.
Chelsea’s ‘Transfer Ban’, which is technically more of a registration ban, limited the incomings in regards to the playing staff. Mateo Kovacic’s move was allowed to be made permanent as they held the registration for the player at the time, they opted against doing the same for Gonzalo Higuain, who went back to Juventus.
Christian Pulisic, who was signed in January 2019 but loaned back to Borussia Dortmund until the summer. Will count as a new face to the Premier League.
How Have Chelsea Started the Season?
It started with a 4-0 defeat to Ole-ver’s Army at Old Trafford, a game in which they were the better team in the first half and a series of individual errors (notably from Kurt Zouma to allow for Marcus Rashford to score from the spot after 18 minutes), cost the away side.
They could have taken the lead through Tammy Abraham, who hit the post after 4 minutes and full back Emerson also hit the woodwork.
Against Leicester, Chelsea looked unstoppable for the first 20 minutes, they could have been at least 2-0 up before Mason Mount’s opener in the 7th minute and could have been out of sight by half time. Leicester rallied in the second half, equalised and also had chances to win the game.
In last week's win over Norwich, Lampard’s side dominated more than their previous fixtures, but still managed to concede 2 goals. N’Golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger should provide defensively stability for Chelsea, once fit.
Mason Mount has been one of their standout performers so far, whilst Abraham (who scored a brace against Norwich) will be hoping to go on a run of form that sees him become their first choice centre forward, a spot that still seems very much up for grabs between himself and Olivier Giroud.
Despite Chelsea being touted as one of the sides to drop out of the top 6, they still have players who can punish the Blades and will always look to score goals at home. We could see United’s most pragmatic performance of the season so far.
"N’Golo Kante is not fit. Continuation of his ankle injury. Pedro is not fit, but should be the other side of the international. Antonio Rudiger will play for the development squad tonight." - On injuries
"[They are] Good dilemmas. I want people to be knocking on the door. I want them fighting for positions. I think it’s important to have options at the top of the pitch. We have to think of different ways of playing depending on the opposition we’re up against.” - On squad selection
"We're going there with the same determination, the same drive and the same desire we always have, yes, we recognise that we're up against elite, international level footballers. But we're there to get a result. It's not a 'free hit'. I hate that phrase. Nothing is a free hit." - On facing Chelsea
Opposition Line Up
Chelsea have played a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 this season. System’s that the club have played for the majority of the past 2 decades. You would expect them to play a hybrid of these with Barkley being the most advanced of a 3.
What has been interesting, is the positioning of N’Golo Kante. Last year, Sarri was heavily criticised for playing Kante as one of the 2 ‘shuttlers’ in a 4-3-3, rather than at the base of midfield. Jorginho was chosen in this position as he was deemed best to be the player to take the ball from his back 4 and begin to orchestrate attacks.
In the 2 games Kante has started this season, he has played as one of the 2 in front rather than his favoured sitting position. This may well just be horses for courses and that he’ll play that role against ‘better’ opposition, he can be a positive influence in this position and it’s not like he has any qualms in tracking back. But an interesting decision nonetheless, given how unpopular it was under Sarri.
Whilst my heart says we could nick a draw from Stamford Bridge. My head says 3-1 to Chelsea.
Both Teams to Score at Evens (William Hill); Over 3.5 Goals at 7/4 (Bet365)