Chelsea v Watford - Positives and Negatives

by - October 22, 2017

This Saturday’s lunchtime kick off witnessed Chelsea host Watford in what proved to be a real rollercoaster of a match. After back to back Premier League defeats and nearly losing midweek in the Champions League after leading 2-0 against Roma, Chelsea really needed a far more positive performance and result. Whilst the result over The Hornets finished positive, everything else about the performance was full of both positives and negatives.

Antonio Conte reverted his starting line up back to his favoured 3-4-3 which was also matched by Marco Silva’s Watford side, and both teams played with high tempos early on. The Watford players closed down and pressured the home team at every opportunity but it was Chelsea and in particular Hazard and the effervescent Pedro who were managing to find space and press the Watford back line.

Meanwhile Watford were also playing with confidence in possession and their pass and movement, a hallmark of manager Silva’s style of play meant Chelsea needed to concentrate and be solid in defence. Despite the influential Deeney’s best efforts and Richarlison’s antics the home side’s back three and Courtois gave away few chances and held strong.

Therefore it was no surprise when The Blues took the lead and for the first 40 minutes looked very comfortable. Both Luiz and Cahill regularly made forward runs in support of wave after wave of Chelsea attacks. However they could not press home their dominance and extend their lead. With over confidence leading to an easing off and the away team’s constant harassing and bullying, what should have been a half time lead was wiped out.

With the second half starting in the same vain as the first had finished, most of the positives shown by the home side early on were now being outweighed by the negatives. A lack of calmness in defence would lead to open spaces which allowed Watford to take a 2-1 lead and if the aforementioned Richarlison had practiced his finishing more, Watford would have gone on to gain a famous victory.

Meanwhile at the other end of the pitch, Alvaro Morata seemed to be back to his early season naivety in being easily knocked off the ball by close marking, robust defenders and, without any forward runs passed his markers, he was woefully ineffectual as the target man in attack. Also, in Chelsea’s midfield, Bakayoko and Fabregas were over ran at times and Alonso had one of his quietest matches and rarely made his usual runs and crosses down the left flank.

However, Antonio Conte managed to trigger Chelsea’s slow return to dominating the match with his first substitution. He turned a negative into a positive by replacing Morata with the match winning Michy Batshuayi, who’s first contribution was a clever turn and run passed his marker.

It proved to be a final 30 minutes of a match that witnessed a complete revolution and not only on the score line. Two further attacking substitutions by Conte, involving a seemingly smooth transition to a 4-4-2 formation, and a shoring up the midfield substitution by Silva in taking off Deeney, led to the likes of Luiz and Fabregas having far more time on the ball and Bakayoko not needing to beat 3 players just to keep possession. Both Willian and Zappacosta made an appearance and both instantly pressed forward and created chances. Even though Watford still countered in the hope of stemming the Chelsea flow towards the 3 points, it always looked like The Blues would out score them at the end.

So Chelsea went on to score 3 unanswered goals and take a win which looked either fully justified or improbable at different times in the match. Conte once again will take positives from the attitude and strength of character shown later on by his players whilst being behind, but  he still needs to address the negatives, which were again highlighted by the opposition’s ease to play straight through the heart of the Chelsea defence.

Written by Jon Ellis, Chelsea FC home and away season ticket holder. Follow me on twitter: @ClitheroeBlue

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