To say that Chelsea struggled to break down Sheffield United in the first half of today’s game might be a strong understatement, except that would also imply that we were actually trying to break them down, which wasn’t always evident in the football on display. Chelsea were far too static, far too slow, and hardly enterprising outside of a few Mykhailo Mudryk ... errr, mudrykisms.
Thankfully, it was a much different story in the second half, with Chelsea scoring twice within fifteen minutes of the restart, and then wasting a couple more glorious chances to meet the per-game average of 2.5+ that the visitors have been conceding this season. Defensive juggernauts they certainly are not, though we did make their lives very easy for a while there.
“I am happy because the players deserve the victory and they work really well during the week. They react [and] realise the things we need to change if we want to improve. [...] It was important to now confirm that we were in a good way [...] the 11 players were committed with the team, chasing the opponent, trying to get the ball back as soon as possible and trying to not give the option to Sheffield United to create chances.
“In the second half I think we fixed different positions and we started to find better possibilities to circulate the ball and stretch the line, Jackson goes into the space. We were aggressive enough but we suffered lack of aggression in the first half because we made a mistake in the way we tried to penetrate but in the second half, with the things we changed, the team found better solutions.”
Key to the second-half performance was Pochettino swapping the roles of Raheem Sterling and Cole Palmer, with the former setting up the latter for our first, and then creating havoc in the area for the latter to turn provider for our second. It was just a small change, but often in football, the devil’s in the details — tactical, physical, or mental.
And we got most of the details right in this one, at the end of the day.
“The team in the first half was a little bit frustrated because we didn’t find a way to break the low block of Sheffield United. [So] we swapped [Palmer and Sterling] and then the positions of the full back and the midfield. In the first half we didn’t give the possibility for [Palmer] or for the team to find better positions on the pitch. That is why we changed.”
“[In the first half] it was impossible to create chances and circulate the ball because always we gave them time to shuffle and shuffle and shuffle. When we wanted to take a risk, lose the ball. I think it was good that we were frustrated but second half we reacted very well.”
“[We] made a mistake to stand still in our positions in our plan to follow. We didn’t show the capacity to be flexible. It was easy for them to identify our position and to block us, to make us put the ball in the position that was easy for them to stop. Second half we were a little bit better, much better, we fixed things and the team found better possibilities to play, link much better. Of course, Cole from the right and going with the space and the possibility to face to the goal started to link better with teammates and started to be the player that we wanted to use, like a playmaker.”
-Mauricio Pochettino; source: Football.London
Obviously, beating the worst team in the league is hardly a result to inspire any sort of grandiose dreams, but a perfunctory three points is still three points — a welcome change alongside a solid-enough performance after the cavalcade of [SHOE] over the previous 180 minutes of Chelsea action.
Onwards and upwards!