Chelsea made it five wins in a row today, notching a fourth consecutive clean sheet for the first time in six years, since Antonio Conte’s title-winning team.
But this team is still far from that well-oiled machine, and today’s win had as much to do with gifts given by the hosts — Tyrone Mings assisting Mason Mount in an imitation of his head coach, Steven Gerrard, then Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez completely misplaying a Mount free kick — as by the quality and resilience shown by the Blues.
Much like Fikayo Tomori’s red card in the midweek win in Milan, Chelsea didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the gifts on offer, and that’s always good to see, especially when the rest of the game doesn’t quite go to plan.
“We’re obviously delighted with the result because it was a hard-fought game. Aston Villa made us suffer, certainly in the first half. I thought we started off okay but lost our way a little bit in the second half of the first half. [We] were better second half, we were more stable. It isn’t easy for us with the number of games we’ve played; to come from Milan to come here and Aston Villa have a lot of quality on the pitch and can cause you problems at any point.
“We’re delighted with the three points, delighted with the clean sheet and happy with Mason and Kepa, in particular, to help us over the line. That is going to be the story: different players will have to step up and today they’ve done it.”
As Potter said, Kepa certainly stepped up with some humongous saves and Mount got both goals, but the tactical and personnel shift at half-time also played a big role in seeing out the result. Chelsea were all over the shop in the first half, and were quite lucky at the times when Kepa wasn’t standing on his head.
“We needed Kepa [and] he made some fantastic saves. [And] in the end, Mason made the difference. [But also] it’s a collective desire to do the ugly stuff in the game. A collective idea to help each other and to be together. If we have to suffer, we will suffer. We have humility and we know sometimes the opponent can get the better of us, that is normal in football.
“But you can see the players running and can see players getting bodies in the way to block shots. That is an important part of the game because we’ve got the quality in the group.”
Consecutive clean sheets and suffering? Antonio Conte-ball indeed!
“We tried to be back three in build-up and back four defensively with Raheem [as right wing-back]. I thought we started the game quite well in the first 15 minutes but then we lost a bit of momentum and they were able to put pressure on, pick up second balls and get behind us. We had to make a change at half time I felt and the boys did it well. We’ve got options there.”
“[...] Marc Cucurella was the left centre-back which can work but it didn’t work so much today. We had to adjust that but Raheem can play high and wide in all those position, but clearly the balance of the team is one that we have to look at and find the right solutions.”
-Graham Potter; source: Football.London
Take the points and run.