It wasn't perfect, and there's still plenty of work to be done. But for the moment, Chelsea appear to be on the verge of identifying themselves as a new-look counter-attacking side with plenty of pace and trickery. More, after the jump:
Preseason friendlies are hard to judge. Too many players are interchanging, fitness levels are grossly below par, and formations tend to alternate as often as Kim Kardashian does with her list of suitors. There's only so much you can glean of a 90-minute encounter of this type, but nevertheless, there was plenty to ascribe from yesterday evening's encounter with the Seattle Sounders. In short, Chelsea are demonstrating an approach that has long since been earmarked as the way forward. Fast, technically proficient, aggressive counter-attacking football. In spaces, the ideas came together to produce stunning results. Otherwise, it was a 90 minute affair that just as well could have been called off after 45.
Here are some observations from my vantage point:
- When Romelu finds a way to blend his awesome athletic gifts with experience/maturity, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with. Let's not get the Baby Didier card out quite yet, but still, plenty of talent in the lad. Here's hoping he gets a continued chance to show his talents this summer. With Daniel on Team GB duty, Lukaku has an excellent opportunity to solidify his spot in the rotation and perhaps jump up in the pecking order to the back-up striker of choice.
- Eden Freaking Hazard. It's no exaggeration that the kid has tremendous talent. What we saw last night was a glimmer of the total package. Incredible first touch abilities, brilliant close control, good speed, an eye for goal, excellent passing range, the ability to pop into spaces afford by the defense. Dude has all the skills you'd expect and more when you factor in the price we paid for his services. I'm curious to see how he fares against a team with sturdier defenders (PSG) but for now, it's clear he's on another level. I'll bet anything Fernando was watching from the comforts of home with a wide-eyed grin painted across his freckled face.
- Marko did his thing- and perhaps more than I expected. It appears his favored move is cutting inside on that right foot (which he did at least four times yesterday). Still, he has a wonderful touch on the ball and maybe greater acceleration abilities than Hazard. The combination of him, Juan, and Eden promises to be magical. Was impressed with his tenacity on defense, and in particular, how he and Eden broke on the counter in tandem. There's clearly an understanding forming between the two. We know Fernando and Juan have their own kinetic relationship. Just wait till the four of them get in groove.
- Tactically speaking, Chelsea were using the favored 4-2-3-1 throughout the first 45 minutes, before falling into a 4-6-0 Spain set-up in the second 45 (with Piazon roaming in a false nine position). The latter seemed to struggle to produce chances, while the former worked very well for us. Clearly, that's the way forward. Elsewhere, some solid contributions from Michael Essien (he's no longer favoring that surgically repaired knee), Gary Cahill, Josh McEachran (despite that wayward pass for Seattle's first goal, he did release Lukaku for the game's first), and Ramires.
- Not a particularly great outing from John Obi Mikel, Yossi Benayoun, David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic, Hilario, and a handful of others. Still, it's early days, so no judgements necessary at this point. It also needs to be said, but given our sudden wealth of options on the wing, why on earth are we holding on to Yossi?
- I need a moment to comment on Kevin de Bruyne. If indeed Oscar has been snared, then I feel it's best for KdB to make his way out on loan. Reason being, despite the proclivity to put KdB on the wing, I see his abilities falling more favorably into a middle-of-the-park role. He's an attacking midfielder/winger hybrid with decent size and a cannon of a shot on him. Would like to see him settle down a bit and read the game before bombing forward. Still, outstanding addition to the fold in my eyes. All the new boys on display, including Piazon and Chalobah, had good nights.
- Say a prayer for Gael Kakuta. Doesn't seem like the kid has much of a future left at Chelsea. Just seemed to be snatching at his chances and trying to do too much. Here's hoping he redeems himself on Sunday. With Ashley Cole, Florent Malouda, Fernando Torres, John Terry, and Raul Meireles joining the fray, it's about to get extra packed for spots. If these guys don't demonstrate their worth on Sunday, there's a distinct possibility they get sent back to Cobham for 'training'.
That's it for now friends. Hit the jump and share your thoughts. Carefree.