Chelsea Confidence Growing Following Draw Against Dynamo Kiev

By
Updated: October 23, 2015

Against Dynamo Kiev, Chelsea twice struck the bar, created several scoring chances, exhibited defensive stability and looked an altogether different side than the team we’ve seen since August.  It wasn’t a victory, but the draw in Kiev produced the second consecutive pair of clean sheets the West Londoners have managed this season.

The desire, teamwork and belief shown by the team throughout the match is exactly the type of commitment Mourinho has demanded of his players in recent weeks. So what’s different about the past two matches? What has José and the team done differently? I took a look at some factors that have been crucial to Chelsea’s recent form.

Personnel

Like most fans, I dread the international break and the forced hiatus from league play.  All I want to do is continue watching my team week in, week out.  Oftentimes, players will pick up an injury or come back out of form.  This time, however, Chelsea may have lucked out.

Branislav Ivanovic, who suffered a hamstring injury while on international duty with Serbia, has missed the past two matches and the underperforming defender may see his spot occupied when he returns to fitness.  Not that it wouldn’t be merited, either.  Culpable for many of Chelsea’s defensive lapses, Ivanovic has had a torrid start to the season.

Kurt Zouma, who took the place of Ivanovic against Dynamo, played a quality match, forcing Yarmolenko into making the most turnovers of any player (25) on the home side.  The young Frenchman looked comfortable at right back, and his turn of speed to deny Vida seemed that of a seasoned defender in that position.  He’s shown his versatility (many will recall him playing holding midfield last season) and surely that’s heartening for his manager.

After coming under fire for dropping Eden Hazard from the starting line-up before the weekend victory against Villa, the embattled José Mourinho appears vindicated.  Hazard’s lack of attention to defense saw him relegated to the bench at the weekend, but against Kiev the Belgian had arguably his best match of the campaign.  Hazard appeared reinvigorated on both sides of the ball, providing cover for César Azpilicueta and terrorizing Kiev defenders when in possession.  He should have scored, but for an impressive finger-tip save by Shovkovskiy which was just enough to see the Chelsea no.10’s shot deflect off the upright.

Nemanja Matic, who has also endured a difficult start to the season, showed a bit of the midfield dominance which made him such an integral part of Chelsea’s title-winning team.  Few have acknowledge it (instead opting to label Ivanovic as the main culprit) but his importance to the team cannot be overstated.  His commanding presence essentially protected the back four for most of last season and when he’s not in form Chelsea’s defense suffers.

I’m one of many Blues fans who point to Fàbregas’ inability to provide proper cover in the holding midfield role.  His lapses have repeatedly exhausted the big Serb who has, for far too long, been responsible for doing the job of two players.  Mourinho seems to have understood that if he is to have any longevity, Fàbregas is better suited in an advanced role operating behind the striker.  Normally, this is a space Oscar occupies, but an injury kept him off the pitch for the start of the season and the young Brazilian is just now hitting his stride.

The question is, can Chelsea sacrifice the offensive firepower Cesc and Oscar offer by starting the latter in an advanced role and the former at holding midfield? Can Fàbregas realistically play the entire season in that position?  Will we see Ramires starting more often alongside Matic with Fàbregas ahead of them?  Mourinho will need answers to these questions ahead of tomorrow’s derby at West Ham.

Tactics

Against Dynamo, and for parts of the match against Villa, Chelsea employed a high press, hoping to force a mistake and counter-attack.  This is trademark Mourinho and a major part of Chelsea’s successful campaign in 2014-15.  Absorbing pressure, tactically fouling to disrupt opponents’ rhythm, allowing opposition to play themselves into a trap, forcing them to make dangerous passes – all were successful game plans for last year’s title-winning side.

The problem with this strategy is that it requires the entire team to be switched on, attentive and (for the most part) mistake-free.  This season, certain individual players have not been up to their usual standards and, as a result, Chelsea’s collective play has been poor.  Conceding goals and allowing shots at a rate of a mid-table club has seen the Blues occupy a 12th place position through the first nine matches.  Makes sense.

Final Thought

While I feel José needs to make gutsy decisions about who to start and which players fit best into his current team, I don’t think he needs to do anything too different tactically.  In Kiev, Chelsea showed that they can be solid defensively.  Confidence is rising.  As Mourinho has noted, now is the time for the team to be together.  With a hectic schedule of fixtures to come, this is the perfect opportunity for the club to show their mettle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *