Sideline Analysis: Chelsea FC v New York Red Bulls


Yesterday night I had the honour of seeing the boys from the ‘Bridge play live, just across the George Washington Bridge at the Red Bull Arena. Win or lose, it is always great to watch your favourite team in person, and it won’t be a night I’ll soon forget! With this, here’s a one-off sideline report from The Pride Of London.

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Last night was a tale of two teams. While one team was still shaking the sand from inside their cleats, the other was in full mid-season swing. Cobwebs is the word that comes to mind when thinking about the Blues performance.

For Chelsea, nigh every pass was just a little over or under in weight, every cross a little high or low, too far or too near. The almost telepathic communication that comes from countless hours on the training ground was blatantly missing, especially at the back.

The Chelsea defence was among the very best last season, but it was also among the least changed. Even Filipe Luis, a player that was lauded as the best left-back in the game at the time, could not log 1000 minutes in the title-winning effort. Last night, however, saw every possible defensive line-up except the one that actually won the league.

Branislav Ivanovic, Kurt Zouma, Gary Cahill, and Cesar Azpilicueta started, with Ivanovic and Cahill eventually making way for Ola Aina and John Terry, pushing Zouma to right-back. They were all flirting with varying degrees of rustiness and, most of all, lacked even the most basic communication.

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Further up the pitch, the engine room saw an insignificant John Obi Mikel working alongside a sleeping Cesc Fabregas. While I cannot tell the difference between a rusty Mikel and a fully fit one (they are both bad), it was very apparent that Cesc could not be bothered to perform yesterday.

In the second half, we saw a well-meaning Ramires mixing wonderful pace with very rusty touches. We also caught a rare glimpse of a rusty Nemanja Matic, who, while doing enough to live up to his name, did make a few errors including a mistake that led to a goal.

Up top was a different story for the most part. Oscar looked lively, and by far the most threatening player of the first half. He bagged an assist in each 45, and set up a handful of chances throughout. The Brazilian has been talking a lot about finally getting some rest and yesterday he put his money where his mouth is, being the best player on the pitch for Chelsea.

Bertrand Traore and Victor Moses showed both their desire for first team inclusion, and the reason that we will likely see them both loaned out again. They were often selfish, and missed plenty of good chances. Loic Remy, on the other hand, looked threatening and got on the score-sheet with a goal that showed his maturity as well as technique. Their biggest issue was the same as in defence: communication.

RELATED: Chelsea FC v New York Red Bulls: Jose Mourinho Post-Match Quotes

The second half saw Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added, with Oscar playing the full 90. Loftus-Cheek went promptly into hiding, barely touching the ball in the middle of the pitch. Hazard’s dribbling and Costa’s physicality were on display, but they could not mask their rustiness. The Belgian, in particular, seemed to have very little to offer and while Costa had plenty of chances, there was little result.

In truth, pretty much everyone that saw a glimpse of the goal squandered a chance or two with half-shots and close misses. I know I keep saying it, but it bears repeating: cobwebs on cobwebs on cobwebs for the Chelsea boys all around.

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Losing our first game back is no cause for panic, especially against a fully-fit team midway through their season. The match did serve its purpose, though, raising a few red flags that will need to be addressed before the start of the season.

Primarily, the need for more cover at full-back overshadows the need for an extra centre-half. Jose Mourinho has had a very quiet transfer season, and we are all hoping that it is part of his master plan to make some dramatic swoops at the end. John Stones can play right-back, but so can Zouma, and that strategy led to a goal yesterday. We need, at the very least, one left-back ready for action, but willing to sit on the sidelines.

RELATED: Chelsea FC Transfers: Blues Pushing for Abdul Baba Rahman Signing

Asmir Begovic, meanwhile, left us all begging for more yesterday. Sure, Terry should have never sent that ball back to him so slowly, but his decision to go with his feet instead of his hands was amateurish. There was very little that he could do about goals two and three, but you can’t help but feel that Thibaut Courtois would have fared better.

Finally, we need to get the rust off the defence, pronto. Ivanovic was probably the only defender that spared himself yesterday, keeping his flank quiet and even providing a good cross for Zouma to miss. Zouma was dreadful at right-back, though he could hardly be blamed for Matic’s deflection/assist that came from his flank.

Azpilicueta, on the other hand, seemed to lose every race and shoving contest which led to two goals coming from his side of the field. While a half-fit offence did its job, the defence crumbled under the weight of a summer vacation.

The side will undoubtedly want to be fresher against PSG, though there are precious few days before the fixture. Moreover, the French team have already showed against Benfica that they are getting up to speed. We should look to start our best defence (Matic included) and wake up Cesc, Hazard, and Costa.

At least this time there will be no David Luiz and Thiago Silva headers to worry about…

In the meantime, check in with the rest of our pre-season coverage at our hub page here. Or choose one of the links below:

Chelsea FC Pre-Season Squad
Chelsea FC’s US Pre-Season Schedule And Guide
Chelsea FC: 5 Players To Watch This Pre-Season

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