The statistics tell of a Chelsea domination: 70-30 possession, 16-5 shots, 8-0 in shots on target, 11-0 corners, more tackles, more take-ons, more aerial wins, better passing. And yet, the win came by the narrowest of margins, and certainly in the first half, Chelsea struggled mightily to break down the resilient visitors.
Chelsea did improve in the second half, move the ball faster, took a few more risks, played with more aggression, with more belief, and eventually got the reward when Marcos Alonso’s low drive beat the goalkeeper. For Alonso, who drew the Newcastles fans’ ire due to his previous association with their great rivals Sunderland, it was not only an overdue first goal of the season, but reward well deserved for the team’s efforts.
“They played in a very compact style so it’s not easy to find space to attack and create chances. In the second half, we did very well and were intense in our play. That makes it hard for them to hold for 90 minutes so we were able to get the goal and the three points.
“We were prepared for them to play like that. Maybe in the first half, we were lacking a bit of patience and finesse in the final third but we always had belief that the goal would come.
“We have many options in the team and this is good. The team is getting better, we are improving game by game and we need to continue in this way. We are moving the ball quickly, our press is good and we are doing a good job as a team. We have clear ideas and we have to continue in this way.”
-Marcos Alonso; source: Chelsea FC
Frank Lampard’s half time message was a key catalyst for the team’s improvement, as were the introductions of Mateo Kovačić, just before half-time for an injured Ross Barkley, and Christian Pulisic, just past the hour-mark for Mason Mount, who had drifted out of the game. And we even kept a clean sheet, the second of the season and the second in three Premier League games!
Towering presence at the back, Kurt Zouma, was equally happy with how things went on Saturday.
“It was a very good win for us, a very difficult game when you have Newcastle coming here and putting everyone at the back and trying to counter-attack. We stayed focused but the first half was a bit difficult because they were compact. The second half we created some more spaces and then we had more chances to score. We scored one and we could have scored more but the most important is the three points and the clean sheet as well.
“The manager said at half-time we have to keep moving them from side to side and try to find the space in between the lines, so that is what we did, and it could have been maybe two or three goals more. But we are happy with the goal and the clean sheet as well. It is difficult to move this kind of block but you have to carry on and keep going and have the belief.”
So that’s now five wins in a row in all competitions, and three in the Premier League proper. Depending on how Arsenal do tomorrow, we could be finishing the weekend in fourth place, even. Things certainly have improved from the start of the season.
“Since the beginning of the season we were playing very well but at the beginning we were not lucky and now the luck is coming for us, and we are also working very hard. The team is very talented and once we know each other, we play. We put 100 per cent in every time and we are very difficult to beat.”
-Kurt Zouma; source: Chelsea FC
That theory will certainly be put to the test on Wednesday, when we travel to Amsterdam to take on Ajax in a crucial Champions League group stage match.