Brentford 0-1 Chelsea: Five things we learnt as man of the match Edouard Mendy

Chelsea’s first trip to Brentford in the Premier League was quite a tricky fixture for the Blues. The bees were buzzing and truly challenged and pushed Chelsea all the way. At many points of the second half, the Blues were condensed into their own half, and fervently defending with all 11 men behind the ball, just trying to withstand the siege that the buzzing bees launched so valiantly for the second half.

The Blues were clearly second best on the day but showed the grit and determination to not be beaten. Edouard Mendy was the hero for the Blues and has simply been the best goalkeeper in the Premier League so far in 2021/2022. Ben Chilwell had an expertly finished volley that gave the Blues all they needed in this match to go back to Stamford Bridge with three points.

Despite the lackluster performance from the squad, there were still some individual bright spots and most importantly the squad showed they can win matches while being well below their best levels. Here are the five takeaways from the match.

Man of the match Mendy saves Chelsea against Brentford. Edit by @Mack08b
Man of the match Mendy saves Chelsea against Brentford. Edit by @Mack08b

The attack is still struggling

The attacking play for Chelsea was quite poor, once again, at Brentford. The passing was stale, sterile, and non-threatening. Too many times the Blues would get into an attacking channel with chances to continue to probe and search for a final ball, but instead would knock it backwards and let the Brentford squad reset into their defensive lines and shape. This continually thwarted the Blues and the attackers had little answers. Interestingly, the lack of movement off the ball was shocking. Players were commonly standing around like statues in the final third. Professional players know that to create space you must move off the ball, but that lesson seem to have been lost amongst the Chelsea players on Saturday.

Romelu Lukaku continued his goal scoring drought and was largely ineffective. The majority of the attack was largely anonymous throughout the game and the Blues were clearly second-best on the day in manufacturing chances. Unfortunately, this has been a trend for several matches now. Lukaku is the leading Premier League scorer for Chelsea this season, but trailing him by only one goal is Trevoh Chalobah and Chilwell. Besides these three players, no one else has scored more than one goal in the squad.

The issues against the Bees were quite clearly chance creation, though. Attackers cannot score chances that are not given to them. This is a great cause for concern given the Brentford match and the matches preceding it. The Blues must start firing on all cylinders once again, but it is encouraging that despite an anemic attack, are still getting results. This is the silver lining.

Brentford deserved at least a point after second half fightback

The Blues won while being at a relatively low level of performance. The Bees were the better team, especially in the second half, both by the eye test and from the stat sheet at full time. Brentford created more chances, controlled the ball better than Chelsea, pressed better than Chelsea (again, especially in the second half), and did everything right to walk away with possibly the three points. However, the post twice saved Chelsea from having an Mbeumo shot ending up in the back of the net. Furthermore, without spectacular play from Mendy, the Blues would have been well behind on the scoreboard.

Chelsea simply did not do enough to win this match, even though they did. It felt many times in the second half that Chelsea were playing more similarly to how Burnley would play: all 11 men behind the ball with a priority on little else than defending. Brentford had Chelsea playing and keeping a shape that was most similar to how Chelsea played against Manchester City: off the ball, second best, and having little answers for creating chances. Brentford played a great match, but Chelsea finished one of the little opportunities created for the team, and Chilwell wonderfully rocketed in his second goal of the season with a skillful volley. Chelsea were able to finish what little chances created unlike Brentford, and that was the difference in this match.

Chelsea win despite not being at their best at Brentford

The win away to Brentford had reminders of the 2014/2015 Premier League season with Jose Mourinho when the squad was able to grind out wins despite being far from their collective best performances in matches. Perhaps this is the start of something greater for the Blues and serves as motivation for the squad going forth. This was also the type of win that could help to build match confidence for the future if the team finds themselves being outplayed.

Despite this, the performance still left much to be desired. Three points are all the same in the end, but this must serve as a reminder that the issues with the squad in attack and creating chances against Brentford is no longer an isolated incident. There were poor displays in other halves against opponents as far back as Aston Villa and Spurs in the Premier League.

Hopefully this is a reflective moment for all involved that these issues could become the difference between winning and losing a title, but there is every reason to believe Thomas Tuchel can and will solve them. Tuchel has found ways to get the squad to win despite the issues in the final third, and it is only a matter of time before things begin to click, and the squad begins to wrack up the goals.

Loftus-Cheek emerging from the shadows

Academy graduate Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been in great form for the Blues in his recent chances for the team and along with his compatriot Chilwell. Both players spent several matches to start the season away from the lineup, but both were slowly eased into the squad and this approach has paid off. Loftus-Cheek is showing glimpses of the form that all once saw when the academy grad was coached by former manager, Maurizio Sarri.

After toiling in loan moves following his devastating injury, his Chelsea career is showing promising signs of new life. His ability to receive the ball and drive forward from deeper positions is a particularly useful skill for the Blues and that was on display against Brentford. Hopefully this is the start of something more for the once prodigal son of Cobham.

Edouard Mendy the hero after standout saves against Brentford

The performance of Mendy cannot be overstated enough. After his heroics between the sticks against Brentford he made his claim as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. Mendy saved several incredible shots, including an expertly volleyed bicycle kick that was destined for the back of the net. His performance is inspiring and single-handedly kept Chelsea from dropping points in this match. On a day where the outfield players were nowhere near their individual and collective best, Mendy showed up to make up for the poor play in front of him and saved shot after shot and commanded his box expertly.

Without the continual match heroics from Mendy the Blues would’ve returned to Stamford Bridge with zero points, their confidence hurt, and larger questions about their title charge. Instead, Mendy would not let that happen. He has proved to be the best purchase from the 2020 summer transfer window.

Written by Travis Flock (@Crossroads_CFC)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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