Chelsea Sweep a Woeful Stoke City Aside

Chelsea finished 2017 with a crushing 5-0 victory over Stoke City at Stamford Bridge. The result perfectly rounded off a fantastic year for The Blues. Yet another Premier League winners trophy, an FA Cup Final appearance and the return of Champions League football are just a few of the headline highlights.

Following on from a run of 6 consecutive home Premier League victories and only 1 defeat in 14 competitive matches, The Blues went into this tie in confident spirits. Antonio Conte made just 3 changes to his starting line up, with Danny Drinkwater, Pedro and Willian all being called up. None of them disappointed, with all of the first 4 goals all being set up by this trio.

Drinkwater made a very impressive start including an inch perfect 50 yard diagonal ball to Victor Moses on the right wing, but it was his sublime goal finish that really took the breath away. Chelsea supporters had been discussing his potential role in the squad - a back up to the defensive N’Golo Kante or as a forward running midfielder similar to Tiemoue Bakayoko, but this display had the magic traits of the visionary genius and talents of Cesc Fabregas.

With the speed and guile of Pedro and Willian supporting the always busy Alvaro Morata the makeshift Stoke defence did not have a chance. Mark Hughes was already without most of his first choice defensive options and needed to install 2 teenagers as full backs, but he decided to bench most of his best available players. His line up still included internationals all over the pitch but they were never going to be a mighty challenge to the reigning champions.

With a far more winnable and crucial home tie against Newcastle United coming up only 48 hours after this match, Hughes thought it best to be at full strength on New Year’s Day. What this resulted in was effectively a training match for the home side especially after being commandingly 3-0 up after only 23 minutes. Yes there was a little showboating on view, but the sight of left wing back Marcos Alonso taking up centre forward positions alongside Morata and centre back Antonio Rudiger dribbling with the ball down the inside left position all the way to the goal line emphasised how comfortable a romp this was.

While Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Andreas Christensen were all able to rest for the full 90 minutes and Kante, Moses and Morata all substituted, this would have been the perfect tonic for Conte in the build up to Chelsea’s next match away to Arsenal on Wednesday evening. An away victory for The Blues would take them 10 points clear of their London rivals and surely eliminate them as a team that could catch them in the battle for top 4 places.

Stoke have now conceded 46 goals this season which is the most of any side in the Premier League. It is a tough situation for Mark Hughes to end 2017 on but if their back up players are capable of such a poor performance and to capitulate so easily he is clearly remain under pressure for the rest of his spell as manager at The Potters. 

Chelsea’s haul of 23 points from the last 30 available has now seen them overtake Manchester United into second place in the table and rounds off a fantastic 2017. Yes it would take an incredible collapse by the all conquering leaders Manchester City for them to give up their top spot, but it is now The Blues who are most likely to benefit from such a collapse. As we move into the new year and the opening of a new transfer market, surely the future looks bright for Conte and his players.

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

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