Chelsea beat Norwich on Saturday and showed all that there is to be positive about the team moving forward. One thing is still necessary.
This is going to be a wonderful year for Chelsea supporters. Frank Lampard is back and showing the youth in the club exactly the sort of faith and professionalism they have needed for years.
In the victory over Norwich City, Chelsea were able to breathe a sigh of relief by finally earning a much needed win and doing it the right way.
Tammy Abraham scored the goals that his early play this season suggested he deserves. His link-up play and positioning have been fantastic in the matches so far, but he has also demonstrated a perhaps age-explained lack of confidence at moments. Mason Mount has done the same.
Both players scored goals that reflected their technical ability. Having won the game on the back of fine performances from a couple of key youth players Chelsea can now focus on the business of getting this sleeping giant of a club started again.
As you’ve heard me say countless times, the Blues have long lacked consistency.
At a club like Chelsea, the pressure to win is so large that when you don’t win the urge to fiddle and make changes can often be overwhelming. rank Lampard has done a magnificent job in sticking by his men and imbuing them with the confidence only a manager can.
Most of Chelsea’s players who have been up and down in recent matches showed signs of finding their feet in the match at Norwich. The Canaries presented a fine test as they are a well drilled and energetic team who play in a magnificently loud Premier League stadium. Matches like this typify the league. Chelsea will need to do well in just such fixtures to reclaim their position as the Pride of London and in the forever war against the larger and more successful clubs from the North West.
A few bright points other than those already named:
Cesar Azpilicueta finally looks to be getting comfortable at right-back again. It makes sense that after years of moving from left-back to center-back then wing-back and now finally his original position there would be some adjustment issues. It is a joy that a player like him is back in good form, setting the example for the rest. His cross for Tammy Abraham’s first goal required precision and touch. No doubt he has been putting in the time to make those changes. Good on him and we’re happy he’s back.
Christian Pulisic was also magnificent, as in the balance of his time so far. It is a pleasure to see a young player like him making the right decision for the team in nearly every situation. He is exactly the sort of player Chelsea need. His energy, intelligence and drive are all characteristics that will be welcome forever.
Mateo Kovacic was magnificent against Norwich. There’s not much room for debate in that. The midfield is up for grabs and N’Golo Kante will take his spot back as soon as he is healthy. But Kovacic showed in this match everything that Inter Milan and Real Madrid have suggested he’s capable of for years.
Finally, Kurt Zouma is recovering from his first match. If he is able to find his form and realize the potential he possesses, he can be one of the best 5-7 defenders in the division. If he and Andreas Christensen develop any sort of a relationship, Chelsea will benefit greatly.
This, though, appears to be the only place Chelsea have an issue. The defending has been too poor.
I have not seen a center-back pairing that lacks a bond as much as Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen in a very long time. All great center-back pairings are built of silk and steel, and meshed together seamlessly by a relationship. The best Chelsea example is John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini or Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are other great examples.
Zouma is very obviously the steel and is still improving. Christensen, the silk, still looks a little too lightweight at times, but as always possesses truly immense potential. They must take more advantage of Antonio Rudiger’s time out injured to develop a relationship and improve the defense. At the moment, neither seems to have even a cursory knowledge of the other’s behavior or positioning.
Neither of Norwich’s goals would have been scored again an intelligently organized defense. That said, Kepa Arrizabalaga perhaps should have saved one and will want to work on his wrist strength, as in recent weeks it has let him down. He is a magnificent keeper and I stand by that. He will want to consolidate his position as Spain’s No. 1 and he needs to organize his Chelsea defense and communicate more. He is far too quiet and needs more of a relationship with whoever is gong to be defending him in the long term.
But that is easy. Defenders must develop a relationship. The center back pairing is a special thing. It’s one leg of the triangle between them and the goalkeeper, and the whole system must be perfect in its communication, feeling and ability to predict each others’ movements.
Chelsea don’t need new players or anything all that special to mend these issues. They just need repetitions and practice. The rest of the team needs minor work at most, as going forward Chelsea are already wonderful.
The note of concern comes because Chelsea should have won 3-0 or, generously, 3-1. Instead the result was 3-2.
They look like an early version of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, and that’s OK. That team, four years ago, was an entertaining and interesting mess who won many games and also lost more than they should.
There’s a lot of work to do and but that work is very simple. Practice, repetitions and fitness. This will be a good team in time. That is all that they need.