Fresh from a mixed start to the season, Chelsea would enter October looking to push for contention at the top of the Premier League. After a season of questionable defensive performances in 19/20, this was a month where Chelsea conceded in just a single game and manager Frank Lampard began to found the right defensive balance.
Game 7/60: Chelsea vs Crystal Palace
October began with a second home league game of the season, against London rivals Crystal Palace. It was the first time Ben Chilwell had made an appearance for the West London side and he certainly made an impression. Coming off the back of two subpar results, it was a slow start with it being goalless after the first 45 minutes. In the second half, however, the game shot to life, with the English left back scoring a debut goal, lashing a strike into the net after the ball pinballed around the penalty area.
Zouma then got his second goal of the campaign, from a Chilwell cross no less, before two penalties in the 78th and 82nd minute respectively were put away effortlessly by Jorginho to seal a huge victory – the first in the league since the opening fixture. Admittedly, Crystal palace weren’t exactly on top form and would go on to have a better season than the result suggests, but for Frank Lampard and his side it was a strong win which put them in good stead going into the international break.
Speaking of the break, it saw Mason Mount net a winner against Belgium, where he also played alongside Reece James, although he didn’t have quite as much of a good time when he was sent off after the final whistle following a defeat to Denmark.
Game 7/60: Chelsea 4-0 Crystal Palace
Game 8/60: Chelsea vs Southampton
Following the international break, the Blues were at the Bridge in the league again, this time against Southampton, and things were about to get all too familiar for Chelsea with regards to the scoreline. It was a case of dodgy defence again as Werner’s hard work scoring a brace was threatened just before half time as the ever-prolific Danny Ings made it 2-1 at the break.
The Saints equalised in the second half but another German arrival from the summer in Havertz put the Blues ahead again. It seemed as though a narrow win was on the cards until, at injury time, a deft header following a set piece made its way past a flailing Kepa and meant there was only one point for either side after the full time whistle. While most of the focus at the time was on the poor defensive display (notably Zouma and Kepa), there was some genuinely good quality attacking play to be seen from the home side which was overshadowed by the goals conceded.
Timo Werner showed his potential when he lashed a shot into the bottom left, beating four defenders on his way, followed up by a clever chip over the keeper finished off with a header. It might not have been all too common in the 2020/21 season, but the German certainly possesses enough talent to survive in the league – it’s just a matter of putting it on show when it matters.
Game 8/60: Chelsea 3-3 Southampton
Game 9/60: Chelsea vs Sevilla
As with most weeks, there was a midweek evening fixture to fulfil, though this one came in the form of a Champions League group stage match against Sevilla. In all honesty, this one was hardly a classic, though the main takeaway was the clean sheet which new goalkeeper Mendy managed to keep on his European debut.
In truth, it was the Spanish side who were on top for the vast majority of the game, though they never threatened the Chelsea goal particularly dangerously. That’s not to say Mendy had nothing to do – he made multiple good saves – but it wasn’t exactly an onslaught either. The Sevilla keeper was also forced to work on a couple of occasions, though again it wasn’t beyond what would be reasonably expected.
If anything, this was one of the strangest games of Chelsea’s season as everything appeared to tip on its head: the defence stood strong but the attack fizzled out, almost entirely the opposite to the past few weeks prior.
Game 9/60: Chelsea 0-0 Sevilla
Game 10/60: Manchester United vs Chelsea
After a run of three home games in a row, it was only right that the team travelled away from London and it was a big away game in that the opponents were Man United. Yet again, however, it didn’t turn out to be a classic with the main positive being the second clean sheet in a row, something of a rarity for Lampard’s side at the time. Mendy in net made a multitude of strong saves, diving wide in his goal to prevent the likes of Mata and Rashford finding the net from distance.
The main talking point, however, was the lack of attention given by VAR to a seemingly stonewall penalty during which Harry Maguire severely restricted Azpilicueta’s jump from a free kick. To the Captain’s anger and indeed frustration, his protests were waved away dismissively and, while all three points may have been slightly undeserved based on the match, there were more than a few angry words vented at the VAR referee as a result of the decision, a premise which was not uncommon throughout the campaign.
Game 10/60: Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea
Game 11/60: Krasnodar vs Chelsea
A few days later the squad travelled to Russia, where there were finally some fans back in the stadium, including one Roman Abramovich who looked delighted to see his club in action for the first time in many months owing to both the pandemic and other issues. He would’ve also been pleased with the performance on show as, not only was there a clean sheet picked up by Mendy (making it 2 in 2 European games), goalscoring form also returned following a short-term hiatus.
Jorginho had a chance to put the Blues ahead in the 14th minute but, in a rare miss for the Italian, he failed to convert. This didn’t shake the side however and they dominated the rest of the game in virtually every area. Hudson-Odoi got the opener as the Krasnodar keeper channeled his inner Arrizabalaga, spilling a rather weak shot into the net. After a period of very little action, Chelsea then came to life again in the final 15 minutes as new signings galore made football look effortless, even if it was only for a short time and likely in an attempt to get a raise too, what with the owner watching on.
Timo Werner tucked away a penalty as Jorginho had left the field by that point, then three minutes later Pulisic, Werner and Ziyech combined with the latter finishing the move off to make it 3-0. The coral kits certainly made quite the impression, particularly in contrast to the rather more muted black strip of the Russian opposition, but it was fitting that such a colourful performance was replicated in the clothing too. Just before the end, Pulisic grabbed a goal for himself too, squeezing in a shot at the near post and capping off a terrible night for the Krasnodar man between the sticks, but with four goals, three points, two turtle doves and one happy Abramovich the Blues headed back to London looking strong in Group E of the Champions League.
Game 11/60: Krasnodar 0-4 Chelsea
Game 12/60: Burnley vs Chelsea
Once again it was a tight turnaround when returning to the UK, again to play away from home, this time against Sean Dyche’s Burnley. Turf Moor carries a reputation of being a ‘tough place to go’, despite statistics seemingly showing them being very poor at their ground against the so-called ‘Big Six’, but Chelsea were clearly unaware of any sort of symbolism when travelling to the Lancashire-based team.
Ashley Barnes did create a slight scare early on when he failed to capitalise on a one-on-one with Mendy, overhitting a dink over the goalkeeper. This error was then punished as Ziyech totally wrong-footed Nick Pope to place a shot into the Burnley net following a slick passing move involving Werner and Abraham. In the second half, Mason Mount swung in a corner and yet again Zouma was there to fire a bullet header into the goal, something that was a common occurrence at the start of the season. For Chelsea fans, it was refreshing to see corners being used to our advantage as, in the previous season, defending them using a ‘zonal marking’ technique had become something of a pet hate for more than a few.
To finish off a great afternoon for Chelsea, Reece James raced forwards having intercepted a cross field ball, played it into Ziyech, who then smoothly setup Werner for a smart finish past Pope into the bottom right hand corner. It was another win, another clean sheet and suddenly the 3-3 draws seemed a world away as not conceding had become part of the furniture at the club, especially in the month of October – unfortunately for Lampard though, this wasn’t set to last for much longer, though at the time it was a great achievement considering the defensive struggles endured for so many matches before it.
Game 12/60: Burnley 0-3 Chelsea
Month in three words: Clean Sheets Galore.
Written by Noah Robson (@noah24_)
Edited by Dan Hill (@idanknow05)
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