1. Cech Distribution
Part of the game plan when out of possession was to stop Chelsea playing out from the back. Cech’s obviously a top class keeper but if he has a weakness its distribution. Straq has his limitations as a player but in terms of effort and sheer belligerence it’d be difficult to think of any player in modern times who shows as much of these qualities as the Argentine. He is circled below cutting off the angle for the pass to Cole – a ball Chelsea use a fair bit to compensate for Cech’s shortcomings on the ball. With this option closed off and Cahill positioned to cut off a central ball, Cech goes long – and straight to Donovan. In total Cech made 22 long balls, with just 13 finding an opponent. He averages 6 per game usually.
The Baines-Pienaar axis have picked up were they left off 12 months ago and gave Chelsea problems throughout with some signature Bainaar manoeuvres. Bosingwa – a player much better offensively – had a torrid time yesterday although in fairness he wasn’t afforded much support down the right flank from Sturridge or any of Chelsea’s midfield trio. Firstly, his poor throw was intercepted by Pienaar and then he was caught ball watching in the same move as Pienaar ghosted into the 18 yard box to control and slam a half volley into Cech’s net. The duo were at the heart of all that was good for the Blues yesterday both in terms of defence and attack.
3. Counter Attack
Chelsea’s use of a high defensive line was mentioned in the preview and was evident yesterday. With Pienaar and Donovan though we have more options for counter attack than at the start of the campaign. The pair made a combined 6 dribbles and their ability to break quickly at pace was very useful against a Chelsea side looking to squeeze play further up field. A mention should also go to Jonny Heitinga, who enabled us to turn defensive situations into attacking ones seamlessly with long deliveries to the 2 creative men on the flanks, averaging 70% success from his diagonals. Donovan has 93 assists in his time in the MLS and his incredibly productive loan spell continued here when the US star capitalised on Neville’s reducer on Ashley Cole to roll in the Straq for the clincher. It was Donovan’s 9th assist from the 17 domestic games he has played for us over his 2 loan spells.
Our 3 midfielders Cahill, Fellaini and Gibson provided a superb screen for the defence. Their average position (left) shows the 3 in close proximity. In total the trio made 6 interceptions, 8 clearances and 10 tackles to frustrate Chelsea. Our visitor’s strength is playing through teams but our solidity through the centre pushed them outside as they made a whopping 33 crosses. Regular readers of the blog will be aware that this is a favoured defensive tactic of DM against sides with limited aerial threat… allowing the opposition to whip the ball in whilst we flood the 18 yard box . Mata – the leagues most creative player – tried 8 crosses with none reaching a colleague. The below screenshot shows a typical Chelsea offensive situation with our midfield trio positioned well to push Chelsea out wide.
5. Final Thought
This was a really well deserved win for the Blues and leaves us in good shape heading into the crucial final third of the season. In a nutshell, the new boys have given us the brains to compliment the brawn we have in abundance at the club. We are now unbeaten in 6 and 3 points better off than this stage last season.