Thus far under new head coach Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea have made a habit of scoring late. Out of the ten goals scored in the four matches this season, six (including the last five in a row) have come in the final 20 minutes. Every goal in the last two games has in fact arrived after the 70th minute.
That’s not necessarily a problem as Chelsea have not been conceding too many goals (just 1 outside of those terrible 15 minutes against Arsenal), but as we saw when Conte’s teams had developed such a habit initially, it may be not be sustainable long-term. For now, Chelsea are coping, but eventually we have to find ways to break down massed ranks a bit earlier, to make things a bit easier on ourselves.
But as Willian reflected after the 2-0 win over Bournemouth, who, like Newcastle, packed the box with bodies and hoped to hit back on the counter, that’s not an easy to thing to do — that’s why teams resort to such tactics.
“True [that we are scoring a lot of goals late], but the most important thing was to win.”
“We know that the opponents approach the game this way, defending with 11 men behind the ball and it is difficult to find space for shots. And by the end of the game we managed to find more space and we got the goals. We tried to switch the ball from one flank to the other, and infiltrate them. But they were very tight at the back and we could not find the spaces.”
“In the second half, they hesitated a few times and we found the spaces we were looking for to score the goals.”
The tactics unfurled by Rafa Benitez (which surprised Sarri) and Eddie Howe (which surprised those who believed him to be less pragmatic) will likely serve as blueprints for many other teams set to play Chelsea in the next few weeks and months. It will be up to the team to break down these walls, and the only way that will happen with any consistency is by continued improvement in training. Sarri highlighted Chelsea’s tempo of passing as a key area once again, but that’s surely just part of the work that needs to happen.
For Willian, who’s hopefully happier with his lot in life these days than in the final days of Conte, that means more work work work work. Conte would be proud.
“I think the team is on the right track. Of course we are just beginning the season, but we certainly have a lot to improve. In football you always have to try to improve, wanting more. So I think that is the way, and we have to keep on working hard on it.”
-Willian; source: ESPN Brasil
Four wins in four is a fantastic start, undoubtedly, though any sort of title talk is certainly premature. That said, Chelsea have taken advantage of our relatively easy opening schedule and sit second after the first month with just the slimmest of margins behind Liverpool on goal difference (+8 vs. +7). If Chelsea can improve and build on this, our trajectory going forward may yet continue unchanged.