Thursday, April 25, 2024

Chelsea 3-0 Luton: Talking points as Sterling and Jackson get first Blues victory of new season

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Chelsea have booked their first victory of the 2023/24 Premier League season by demolishing newly promoted Luton Town at Stamford Bridge. Raheem Sterling bagged a brace (17′, 68′), before Nicolas Jackson opened his Chelsea account to set the final score (75′).

Sterling reborn

It was a fantastic game for Sterling. The England international was a threat for the visitors throughout. Apart from the two goals he scored, it was his deflected cross from the right that found Jackson in a great position to tap the third in.

The 28-year-old joined Chelsea last summer from Manchester City, having lost all guarantees of a starting spot for the reigning champions of England and Europe. His maiden season at Stamford Bridge was one that he won’t want to remember for very long, given that his pale performances blended in with the rest of the team that disappointingly finished in 12th place with just 44 points.

He didn’t do particularly well in the opening two matches this term either, a 1-1 home draw against Liverpool and a 3-1 loss away to West Ham. However, as the player closest to Jackson upfront, this time he was given plenty of freedom to roam and attack the visitors’ goal from whichever position the flow of the game took him to. His pace and trickery, particularly inside the box, were a nightmare for the Luton defence, and the first goal was probably the best example of that as he danced in from the right, past several defenders, and calmly put the ball into the net. The second came as a result of a nicely worked team move in which Sterling was involved from the start, ending with right-back Malo Gusto finding Sterling again and him producing another calm finish.

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Speaking of Gusto, the 20-year-old has done an admirable job of replacing injured captain Reece James in the starting XI. His linkup with Sterling on that flank looked like one between players who have been playing together for years. If it continues, James might start wondering if he’ll have a job on his hands to get his spot back upon recovery.

Are Chelsea back?

This game certainly left the impression that Chelsea are back to playing their best football. It was what it was supposed to be from their point of view – a contest between a top side and one hoping for very little apart from surviving in the league at the end of the season.

Mauricio Pochettino has made this team play good football, there can be no doubt about that. Despite failing to beat Liverpool and losing to West Ham, there were hints of what the Argentinian tactician has been trying to do even in those matches; this time they got it down to perfection.

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On the other hand, there are still questions for Pochettino’s men to answer. It’s still very early in the season, and there’s a lot of work for them to do get back to competing at the very top. The first question that basically sets itself after this game is, whether the Blues can play for 90 minutes at this level against stronger opposition.

Luton set for difficult relegation fight

A decade ago, Luton were playing in the fifth tier of English football, and reaching the Premier League from there in that time is certainly an achievement worthy of great respect.

But Rob Edwards and his players have already felt the vast difference between the Championship and the Premier League. They were comprehensively beaten by Brighton and Hove Albion in the opening round, and now by Chelsea as well. As their second-round game against Burnley was postponed, they still have no points to their name and the goal difference of 1-7. Far from an encouraging start.

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There have been examples in recent years of teams earning Premier League promotion and proving competitive even there. Fulham and Nottingham Forest did it last season, and Brentford the season before. The Bees have even gone as far as being the only team in the league to have pulled a double over Manchester City in 2022/23.

But for Luton, things don’t look too good at this point. At Stamford Bridge, they threatened very little, frequently lacking any quality on a cross or a pass into the box even when they did get forward in numbers. They came close to scoring only once, in the 60th minute, when they worked up a nice position for left-back Ryan Giles to shoot. His shot picked up an awkward deflection, forcing an excellent reflex save from Robert Sanchez in the Chelsea goal.

All in all, from what we’ve seen from them so far, Luton seem the prime candidates for relegation at the end of the season, and they’ll have to put in a lot of work, possibly even sign players of better quality in January, if they intend to avoid such an outcome.



Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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