Saturday, December 15, 2018

Huddersfield 1-3 Chelsea: Five things we learned as Chelsea return to winning ways

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The rain was hammering down on the John Smith’s Stadium as kick-off approached, with Huddersfield looking for an unlikely win, and Chelsea desperate to avoid another embarrassing defeat following their loss to West Ham on Saturday. While the home fans would have been gearing up for the hosts to make a real game of it, Chelsea were able to brush their opponents aside.

Despite Alvaro Morata not playing a part in the game, the Blues made easy work of their opponents in the end, with goals from Tiemoue Bakayoko, Willian and Pedro capping off a good night’s work for the visiting side. Huddersfield looked to stay as compact as possible in the opening stages, but they were undone by a mistake at the back for the first goal, which meant they were always chasing the game, which opened things up for the Blues.

Huddersfield did get one back, but it was with the last kick, or head of the game, as Laurent Depoitre powered a header past Thibaut Courtois, but it was too late too late as the hosts gave their opponents far too much respect.

The win sees Chelsea move level on points with Manchester United who have a game in hand, while Huddersfield sit in 12th with 18 points, and they are in real trouble of becoming embroiled in a relegation battle this season.

From Chelsea’s win, what five things did we learn?

Mistakes undo Huddersfield

On a rain-drenched evening at the John Smith’s Stadium, it was unlikely that it would be a piece of individual brilliance that opened the scoring, with the slick turf causing the ball to really zip along the ground. This saw passes miss their mark, touches were heavy, and switches were rendered almost completely ineffective.

Chelsea kept the ball for long periods of the first-half, but there was little incision, with much of their attacking coming from the wings despite the fact they bore no aerial presence up front.

The goal was something that came largely out of the blue then, despite their possession. Jonas Lossl played a goal kick short, and the ball was returned to the goalkeeper with Pedro chasing him down. Lossl took a touch, and struck the ball with his left foot as he slipped, which meant it barely made it to the half-way line. This allowed Victor Moses to head the ball back towards the box, and after some quick play, Tiemoue Bakayoko was able to chip the ball home.

It was a moment of madness for Lossl, who should have just put his foot through the ball, but his slip ended in disaster for the side. David Wagner would have been massively disappointed to see his team’s desperation to keep the ball, and it saw Huddersfield forced to chase the game.

No Morata, no problem

Chelsea started the game without hitman Alvaro Morata after the forward was ruled out due to a back problem. This meant that Eden Hazard led the line, with Pedro and Willian playing behind him, meaning there was not a recognised striker on the pitch for the Blues, which has been a recipe for disaster in recent years for many teams.

Chelsea’s tactic of switching the ball and utilising the wings to cross the ball into the box was questionable, with their front three hardly ticking the aerial prowess box. However, they were also hugely impressive when pressing their hosts, and their first goal came from that pressing.

Bakayoko’s goal, along with Willian tidy finish were exactly what Chelsea deserved when looking at the possession in the first-half, and it was an impressive end to the half considering they did not have an actual striker playing. Pedro’s adept finish was another example of their attacking-prowess as the Spaniard picked up a knock-down to curl an effort home. Morata brings an aerial presence along with his pace, intelligent on the ball play and finishing ability, and it was easy to see why Chelsea might miss him, but their front-three took their chances with aplomb, showing that Chelsea are not a team that can only score when Morata is on song.

Huddersfield are in trouble

Huddersfield were tipped to be one of the sides that would struggle hugely this season, but they have actually been very impressive so far. However, they have too often been beaten heavily at home, losing 4-0 to Tottenham, 4-0 to Bournemouth, 5-0 to Arsenal, and now 3-1 to Chelsea.

In the Championship last season, Huddersfield were able to score 56 goals, and they conceded 58 times, showing that they were neither superb going forward nor particularly solid at the back. This season they have scored just 11 goals and conceded 29 times already, once against showing that they are worryingly weak in both halves of the pitch.

Before the majority of the teams around them have even played, they find themselves in 12th in the league. The fact they have collected 18 points means they are just five clear of the relegation zone, and they could find themselves much closer to the trap door by the end of Wednesday.

Perhaps their 2-0 win over a Brighton side that have been struggling in recent weeks flattered them. They brushed aside 0ne of the teams that were promoted with them, but when it has come to many of their games against established Premier League sides that are able to link up play intelligently, then they struggle massively.

They could not keep up with Chelsea’s passing, their movement baffled the players, and their general link-up play saw the Blues running rings around their opponents. Huddersfield are not a bad side by any stretch of the imagination, but they have areas in which they must improve if they are to survive and move forward this season.

Chelsea have real depth in midfield

Many questioned Chelsea’s decision to let Nemanja Matic leave in the summer, with the Serbian making up one half of a formidable defensive-midfield unit. United’s new recruit has only improved since his move, and he now looks like a more complete player, as he is entrusted with playing with the ball at his feet more than he did at Chelsea.

The Blues started the season poorly, but have improved as the weeks have gone by. This has been largely due to their midfield-partnership steadily improving. N’Golo Kante picks himself, but the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Danny Drinkwater and Bakayoko have all been jostling for position next to the dynamic-midfielder.

Their win over Huddersfield saw Fabregas not involved on the pitch, while Drinkwater came on as a sub, with Bakayoko starting. While Huddersfield rarely threatened, it is to the credit of Chelsea’s midfield that their defence barely had to kick the ball in a dangerous situation.

Fabregas may be better utilised just behind the striker, but both Bakayoko and Drinkwater are adept at sitting beside Kante. Both have had their critics recently, but the two are still becoming accustomed to the way the London side play, and the power and pace of Bakayoko, along with the intelligence on the ball of Drinkwater mean that Chelsea’s midfield seems to be in a very healthy position.

Batshuayi struggles again

Michy Batshuayi would have been hugely disappointed not to have started the game after it was revealed that Alvaro Morata would miss the match. However, Conte put his trust in Hazard, who gave the side a different dimension entirely. Despite this, the manager brought on the youngster who had 20 minutes to impress, but he failed to do that.

He was easily knocked off the ball at every available opportunity, his passing was poor, he did not look sharp, and he barely had a sight of goal. Indeed, the only time he ever received the ball near to the goal was marred by the fact he was coming back from an offside position.

Batshuayi has been massively underused this season, and Morata being injured has not always seen the young-forward elevated to the starting XI. On this performance, Conte will not be entrusting Batshuayi with leading the line at the weekend.

Huddersfield: Lossl 5 – Smith 6, Jorgensen 6, Schindler 6, Lowe 6 (Hadergjonaj 6) – Kachunga 6, Williams 6, Hogg 5 (Whitehead 6), Mooy 6, Ince 6.5 – Mounie 5 (Depoitre 6).

Unused subs: Coleman, Cranie, van La Parra, Quaner.

Chelsea: Courtois 6 – Azpilicueta 7, Christensen 7 (Ampadu 6), Rudiger 6 – Moses 6, Kante 7 (Drinkwater 6), Bakayoko 7, Alonso 7 – Willian 7, Pedro 7.5, Hazard 8 (Batshuayi 5).

Unused subs: Caballero, Fabregas, Musonda, Cahill.

Referee: Andre Marriner.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Darvill


Ben is an English and creative writing graduate that is now working his way up in the world of sports journalism. Having been writing for the last four years, Ben has written for a number of websites specialising in sport, with football a particular passion. He is a long-suffering England fan and eternal optimist when it comes to the Three Lions.

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