Chelsea took on Norwich City on Saturday in the second of two entirely winnable games in a row, and picked up right were we left off midweek, despite not featuring a recognized striker.
Norwich were coming off two nil-nil draws and were starting to garner some level of recognition for sorting out their previous defensive woes. That’s been, in part, thanks to Daniel Farke changing the shape of his back line, which has subsequently limited the appearances and minutes for a certain Billy Gilmour.
Regardless, within the first ten minutes of the match, it was clear that Chelsea were the far superior side.
Similar to the Malmӧ game, Chelsea had the lion’s share of possession, and were quick to the press if it was lost. The intensity was no less than what Tuchel has demanded as a response to the ending of the Brentford game. The pace with which we were moving the ball and the movement of the players was excellent. This was bolstered by Norwich also not showing the same rigidity in defense that they had been in their previous matches.
Jorginho, Kovačić and Silva were all able to play direct passes into the front three, with FBref reporting that they had 13, 14, and 15 long range pass attempts, respectively. Jorginho was doing well at finding little pockets of space and distributing into the runs of the forwards. Silva was keeping their defense honest with some delightful balls over the top. Kovačić was having a great game, with a pair of assists — the first one in particular a wonderfully weighted and threaded pass through a porous back line.
Mateo Kovacic has more assists in nine Premier League appearances this season (5) than any other single campaign in his entire career pic.twitter.com/4pV7FJ5Wxn— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) October 25, 2021
The second consecutive display of more direct and forward passing by Jorginho was also a welcome sight. He was rewarded for his efforts by his assist from a deft layoff to Mount in the eighth minute, but he had played numerous through balls to Havertz, Mount, and Hudson-Odoi prior to that. This certainly isn’t the first time he’s shown that he’s capable of more than just rote passing routines, but is starting to do that on a more regular basis.
Our defense, despite no real pressure today, looked impervious, while behind them, Mendy nullified Norwich’s only chance early in the second half that resulted from their only decent spell. Even with rotating personnel, there seems to be no significant drop in our defensive levels.
Rüdiger’s driving runs from deep and towards goal are becoming a staple of his game. In fact, he shared the most number of shots from open play with Mount. His dominance on the left side of defense has earned him the contract he is seeking, regardless of wage demands or the history with his knees.
Once again, largely due to Chelsea playing so well, our opponents’ back line shifted to a low-block back-five, but we have had no problems breaking those down in our last two matches. We have often found those difficult to unlock, but right now, a low block by struggling teams might be a blessing in disguise — giving us a chance to gain confidence and knowledge in bagging goals against such a defensive set-up. By keeping players wide and stretching their defense, the gaps created were quite apparent, and the final passes, the link-up play from the midfielders and wingbacks, and the final product were all tremendous in utilizing them.
Mount has taken most of the plaudits, but Callum Hudson-Odoi had a wonderful game playing in his favored position. He has shown that he is capable of playing at right wingback, but with Reece James and Azpilicueta both available, there is no reason to press on with him there. With a display like today, Hudson-Odoi has certainly earned more chances.
Wingbacks have been a constant for Tuchel since arriving at Chelsea. While the players in those positions are left over from the Conte and Sarri eras, Tuchel has redefined their roles. This couldn’t have been more clear than in the 44th minute when Chilwell drove centrally and James ended up inside the box from his layoff. This tactical wrinkle has become more prevalent and notable in recent games, and is clearly something Tuchel is training them to do. Chilwell especially has been reaping the rewards, showing unexpected goal-scoring prowess.
The substitutions didn’t let the level of play drop too much. Loftus-Cheek may have even improved the quality and pattern of play. With space afforded in the middle and Norwich hemmed into their own half (especially after the dismissal of Ben Gibson), the game was crying our for his qualities. Once again, he did a wonderful job of being a motor in midfield, and his ball retention and dribbling abilities in tight spaces, combined with his power and presence, have been a wonderful re-revelation this season.
This game showed the disparity between the top of the league and the bottom. Norwich have been promoted and relegated five times in the Premier League era, and are already looking likely to head back down again.
But more pertinently, Chelsea were nearly flawless and the conversion rate on our goals was impressive. The non-regular players were able to demonstrate their merit, and those who came through the Academy were especially lighting up the field. Our ability to break down a parked bus has been glorious to behold in these past two games.