While any praise headed Chelsea’s way after the weekend’s 3-0 win can be attenuated by the fact that the opposition were struggling and potentially relegation-bound Watford, after making a mess of things against similarly poor opposition just three days before, perhaps we should enjoy the good vibes for a minute — or at least until Tuesday’s trip across London to Crystal Palace.
Key to Chelsea’s excellent performance were the starting midfield trio of Mason Mount, Ross Barkley, and N’Golo Kanté. Most games of football are decided in midfield, and Chelsea certainly won that battle at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
As young Mason Mount explained afterwards, it was all thanks to the dynamic between the three of them, with the one and only N’Golo Kanté enabling the other two to do their thing pretty much without having any other concerns — which is why Kanté missing the next game or two will be a problem.
“When you’ve got N’Golo behind you, so solid and covers everywhere, you don’t need to worry too much about getting back and defending because he’s always there. That’s a massive help.
“All me and Ross try and do is link the play up, get in the box and try and score goals and create chances. That’s our job when we’re in the team, and it worked well.”
With Mount collecting the Man of the Match award and Barkley chipping in with an assist and a goal, it certainly worked well indeed — the most obvious example being the first goal, for which the two of them combined for two tremendous through-balls to release Olivier Giroud in the area for a precise far-post finish.
“[Watford] started off with two blocks of four, making it difficult for us to break them down and get chances, so that kind of through pass you have to punch it in, because if you don’t it’s going to get intercepted.
“I tried to disguise it a bit, I saw him in the pocket and I just tried to wrap it in. It was a good touch [from Barkley], good through ball, and it was good timing from Oli and a good finish.”
It’s a simple game, after all. See the ball, be the ball, thread the needle three times in three actions. But that’s often what’s needed to beat massed ranks of defenders in the modern game. Fortunately, we have the quality, if not quite the consistency (yet), to pull it off.
It’s down to the players to execute properly, which the ever-present Mount is quick acknowledge as well.
“It’s down to us to perform. We were in a good position before West Ham but we lost, and that’s kind of how our season has gone. We have bounced back from defeats. We can get the wins when the pressure’s on and we need to get as many three points as we can.”
-Mason Mount; source: Chelsea FC
Next up then: Crystal Palace away, another tough proposition.
Chelsea have not scored more than 1 goal in any of our last three trips to Selhurst Park, and we’re not exactly knowns for clean sheets these days. Mount & Co will likely have to get at least a couple once again, just as Chelsea have done in 9 of our last 10 Premier League matches.