Parked buses don’t come any more obstinate than Newcastle’s double-parked double-deckers at St (Reece) James’ Park on Saturday, with the home side putting all eleven players behind the ball full time, having them all sit in their own defensive third, with as many as nine often dropping all the way inside their own penalty area. (That we had a goal ruled out for offside is amusingly ironic in retrospect.)
Breaking that down was never going to be an easy task, regardless of the gulf in quality and intention between the two sides. Fortunately, Chelsea stuck to the task without (too much) frustration, kept grinding, probing, moving, passing, and eventually — but crucially before things got too late and the home contingent would’ve been truly energized into believing — got rewarded.
We’ve all seen these games turn out very differently, with the dominant side unable to break the opposition down, who then might even go on to grab a late winner. Fortunately, we avoided any such drama, and for that, credit must be given for the work both with and without the ball, even if neither are as immediately impressive as in, say, a 7-0 pasting of a relegation-threatened team.
Thomas Tuchel was certainly happy enough, especially with our attitude to keep going at it.
“It was necessary to be patient and it was necessary also when you are more or less the only team who is responsible for the intensity and rhythm of the game. It is not an easy task.
“I’m very happy with the performance off the ball, like what happened when we lost the ball — our counter pressing was excellent. The attacking when they were on the ball was excellent. The effort off the ball, the concentration, hunger and discipline from the whole team was brilliant off the ball. That is what makes me happy and what was key today.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: BBC
Chelsea’s recent schedule has been favorable, but we’ve been taking care of business as expected, and now have a three-point lead at the top of the table, having scored the second most goals in the division while conceding the fewest.
At the quarter-mark of the season, there’s little more we could ask for, especially as we’re still far from a finished product and have been dealing with an injury crisis as well — missing the likes of Mason Mount, Mateo Kovačić, and Romelu Lukaku today for example.
Two more “easy” games before the next international break, then it’s time for the winter grind and festivities. But if you’re feeling something special in the air already, you’re not alone...