Chelsea v Fulham represented a stern test for both clubs in the West London Derby. Scott Parker’s side were determined, resolute, and full of determination. The Blues began the first half with a fairly even contest, but the momentum was flipped after Fulham saw a player red carded for a dangerous tackle on Azpilicueta. This switched the momentum of the game and could not have come at a worse time for Fulham. During the second half with Fulham down to 10 men, Chelsea continued to ask questions and get shots off but just could not break through Fulham. A switch to 2 strikers and a different formation was enough to ultimately get a goal from Mason Mount off a rebound. Chelsea took all 3 points home from Stamford Bridge, but the performance was not fully inspiring. There is plenty to talk about with a good result but a meagre performance overall. Below are my 5 talking points from the Chelsea v Fulham match.
1. Sluggish First Half
The Chelsea v Fulham match saw quite a disappointing first half for the Blues. Our attacking play was not fluent, we weren’t moving the ball well, the defence seemed to be challenged several times, and Fulham generally outplayed Chelsea in several parts of the first half. Fulham created a great chance to go up 1-0 as the ball was set up on a tee for Cavaleiro, but luckily he blasted his shot high and wide. Chelsea really dodged a bullet there and did so a couple other times throughout. Other instances of a sluggish first half were with the general attacking play. It was slow, we were not able to pick out a final pass, and it seemed to alternate between more direct play over the top and moving the ball to the flanks to start the overload and cross into the box. However, neither was effective and Chelsea seemed reliant upon Ziyech or Chilwell to make crosses and passes into the box during the attacking phases. Luckily for Chelsea, Fulham made the attacking play much easier to end the first half as a red card was given against Fulham’s Robinson for a rash challenge on Azpilicueta.
2. Werner Benched
Timo Werner was benched for this match. Much has been made of the young German struggling for form so far at Chelsea, with Werner only registering one goal against a League Two side in over two months. Despite this, Werner has been handed many opportunities, but Fulham was not a further one. Without Werner, the attack still had plenty of pace on the wings with Pulisic and Ziyech, and Giroud took up the target man role within the attack. Werner eventually was brought on as a substitute in the second half, and perhaps he will wish that he was just left on the bench. Werner made impacts during his appearance, but for all the wrong reasons. To sum this up, Werner was racing through one on one against the Fulham GK, and on his preferred right foot, he fired wide by some distance.
It was a clear chance that mostly any striker who is on form, and having confidence, buries. No excuses for how poor of a miss it was from Werner. I do not want to dig too much at Werner here but I have concerns that we are witnessing the beginning of a familiar pattern at Chelsea FC with high profile strikers that are recruited via the transfer window. He is devoid of all form and confidence. I do not expect to see Werner starting anytime soon based off what we have seen for the last couple of months, and the miss at Fulham puts a disappointing bow on his plummeting form over the last 2 months. I hope he can come out of this sooner rather than later.
3. Wasted Chances
Chelsea was wasteful in attack during the second half. The attack generated plenty of chances and shot attempts, but there was little to suggest that the side would take their chances and rack up the goals. First, Chelsea had 21 shots with only 6 attempts being on target. That is a fairly poor shot percentage from the squad. Secondly, Chelsea had many corner kicks during this match, and converted zero of those chances. Third, the following is a list of the chances missed, and this list is purely from my observations during the match:
- The crossbar was hit by Mount
- Corners were routinely not threatening enough, apart from Rudiger’s effort in the first half
- Giroud missed a one on one with the GK before being ruled offside
- Pulisic missed a big chance
- Tammy had a pedestrian effort on a header that was easily claimed by the GK
- Ziyech began to force shots that were blocked in the second half
- Werner missed his touch to control the ball inside the opponent’s box
- Pulisic missed an easy cutback to Werner, who was racing through and cutting towards the goal in the opponent’s box
- Tammy had an awful touch in the 85th minute that ruined a chance
- Azpilicueta had a terrible shot inside the area when the ball was waiting to be hit
It was simply a bad day from an attacking standpoint and this will need immediate improvement for the upcoming match against Leicester City.
4. CHO – The Game Changer
Finally, the stay boy has shown enough. He is the second-best winger in the squad at the moment, and he deserves to be treated as such. Callum Hudson-Odoi (CHO) was brought on as a substitute in the second half of the Chelsea v Fulham match and he was a clear bright spot on the match for the Blues. He seemed more lively, dangerous, and decisive than others. He also displayed the ability to quickly switch the play by completing difficult cross-field switches and was heavily involved in the attack during the second half. Much has been made of whether CHO has been treated fairly this season, but yesterday seemed like CHO laid down his marker that he will no longer be ignored in this squad and that he is deserving of a starting XI place. CHO has consistently used his limited appearances to have disproportionate impacts, and I have a feeling that trend will reverse for the Leicester match. CHO is more than deserving of the start next time out, and we should all be encouraged by what we are seeing from the young man.
5. Two Striker Formation
Chelsea moved to two strikers on the pitch during the second half and this switch seemed to be what ultimately won the match for Chelsea. The entire attack was playing better under a two striker setup that seemed to blur between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-4 many times. However, Chelsea used this two striker system to attack in either a 2-3-5 or a 2-4-4 shape. Pulling the extra man further back with the switch to 4-4-2 was exactly what the squad needed to break down the Fulham blocks. This is because as extra man pulled further back, it also forced Fulham to pull a bit further forward to account for the players dropping into deeper spaces, and this ultimately opened up more small spaces and areas for others to exploit. Although it took a Mason Mount volley to break Fulham, the 2 striker formation opened up substantially more space and time for Chelsea. Perhaps this is a formation that Lampard will want to keep on-hand for the future?
Written by: Travis Flock (@Crossroads_CFC)
Edited By: Ross-John (RJ) Bonaccorsi (@RJ_Goodthings)