Two minutes and 45 seconds in, Kepa Arizzabalaga started an excellent interplay from the back. The ball went to Azpilicueta who then passed it to Mason Mount. It didn’t stop there. Mount deftly passed it to Pedro who sent the ball towards Tammy Abraham, Chelsea’s new no.9. Tammy didn’t disappoint either as he was wise enough to put the ball in the path of Mason seemed-to-be-everywhere Mount. That pass sequence resulted in a deserved corner which then ultimately led to the first real chance for Chelsea. Once again, it was the finishing that eluded the blues as the 21-year-old Tammy was only able to hit the woodwork. In a way, it was the story of Chelsea for the whole game last evening. A series of unfortunate events in an otherwise positive performance.
In my opinion, Chelsea played way better as a team than Manchester United, especially for the first 45-60 minutes. Though the result didn’t go our way, we have reasons to believe that this is the start of something special under Super Frank Lampard. Make no mistake, Chelsea were defensively awful. I’m not gonna write about our defensive mistakes since there were plenty and writing about them will have to be a series of articles. What could’ve been a great start to the new season ended up shattering whatever dreams we had for finishing in top 4.
When I first saw the lineup, just like everyone else, I was wondering the same thing: Why isn’t Pulisic in the starting eleven? The 20-year-old American started from the bench. This was quite surprising as Pulisic had a great preseason and as far as I know, had settled in well already. Hopefully, he will start more in the upcoming games as we need someone of his caliber at the front as much as possible.
Another thing that caught my attention was the inclusion of both Barkley and Mount. After what was a great preseason for them, I definitely liked what I saw from Barkley and Mount. However, putting Barkley on the left midfield position doesn’t sit well with me. Even under Sarri last season, Barkley didn’t do well when he played in that left midfield position. Barkley as a no.10, however, had been quite a revelation this preseason and I was expecting the same at Old Trafford.
Mount, on the other hand, has been nothing but brilliant for Chelsea so far and has, in fact, proved a lot of people wrong including me. The determination showed by the 20-year-old youngster was fantastic to watch. As I said before, he seemed to be everywhere on the pitch and he looked to be very good at winning balls in dangerous areas too. It’s not surprising that Frank keeps picking Mount, but I wish he finds a way to get the best out of both Mount and Barkley.
Barkley was often found to be isolated on the left side. Another disappointment was he wasn’t even allowed to play the full game while Pedro, the 32-year-old veteran who got dispossessed a lot, played the entire game.
I would’ve liked to take Pedro out in the 60th minute for Pulisic and put Barkley in the no.10 role while moving Mount to the right. This is not to say Mount was bad in that role. Mount seems to be more flexible than Barkley and therefore, I believe he could’ve occupied Pedro’s position. If you closely watched the game, you would’ve noticed that Mount and Pedro often switched positions anyway.
Another thing I want to talk about is the positioning of Tammy Abraham. While he had his share of misfortunes, things could’ve been a little different if he made use of the opportunities that were created. I will give two examples.
Now, it’s not every day you see a cross from Azpilicueta coming inside the box. So there’s a chance Tammy might not have expected the ball to tap in. Joke aside, as you can see from the above pic, Tammy sees Dave running towards the ball and as a striker you’d expect Tammy to run like a madman towards the box. But look at this:
That proved to be too late as Tammy missed an easy tap-in.
Here’s another example. Initially, Tammy is in the centre at 11:27.
Watch what happens seven seconds later. Pedro wins the ball in a dangerous position looking to pass the ball down the middle. Tammy meanwhile drifted wide for some reason while Mount was trying to capitalize the opportunity. Ultimately, Mount ended up taking a shot alone at the front before Barkley coming in. Tammy, if he was there at the front, could’ve scored an easy one courtesy of Mason Mount.
For a centre-forward, positioning is everything and that is definitely something that Tammy Abraham needs to work on. Fortunately for him, age is on his side and so is his manager who completely trusts his players like any great manager would.