Things seem to have quieted down around Chelsea heading into the international break weekend. Here are a few things relevant to the Blues to start your Saturday.
International breaks late in the season take their toll on players who need to be resting rather than traveling and player. International breaks this early in the season their toll on the rest of us who have nothing more than an smattering of Chelsea-related news to occupy the weekend. Here goes.
1. Early look at goal kick data
Duncan Alexander and Opta pulled out some goal kick data to see how Premier League goalkeepers were adapting to the new rule allowing players to receive the ball in the box. Kepa Arrizabalaga was smack in the middle of his peers, sending 10 goal kicks to teammates in the box over the first four games.
Most of Arrizabalaga’s “in-box” goal kicks went to a player just inside the penalty area. None of the free (WhoScored.com) or essentially free (StatsZone) data websites indicate who these recipients were.
This is something worth watching in upcoming Chelsea games. Chelsea have built most of their play out through their full-backs, particularly Cesar Azpilicueta. The destination of Arrizabalaga’s in-box goal kicks line up with a standard position for a full-back to receive the ball.
However, from the first game against Manchester United, Chelsea will sometimes start the play with their centrebacks split very wide, sometimes into the “half spaces” and even out towards the touchline. This forces the full-backs further up the pitch, closing the distance with the wingers who have to come inside as they drop deep. Mateo Kovacic is usually the midfielder who drops in line with the centrebacks when they take this extra wide positioning.
It could be instructive to see if Arrizabalaga’s in-box goal kicks go towards the centrebacks or full-backs, and how this compares to these players’ positioning when Arrizabalaga builds out from open play.
2. Samuel Eto’o retires
After 718 games – 35 in a Chelsea jersey – Samuel Eto’o announced his retirement from football on Friday. Stamford Bridge was the first stop in his final journey through football, becoming a Blue for one year before joining Everton, Sampdoria, Antalyaspor, Konyaspor and Qatar SC in rapid succession to close out the final five years of his career. He won all his trophies – and there were plenty – before his stint at Chelsea.
Eto’o’s season with the Blues is most relevant today for how he shared striker duties with Demba Ba and Fernando Torres. The three combined for 31 goals across all competitions in 2013/14. Eto’o led the trio with 12, and was second on the team to Eden Hazard’s 17.
Tammy Abraham is off to a nearly perfect start for a season where he can define himself as the Blues’ starting striker and true No. 9.
However, as fixtures pile up through the winter and if Abraham goes through a natural dip in form, the 2013/14 model could be useful for Frank Lampard. If Lampard reaches a point where he does not think any of these three could or should be leading the line every week, but each brings a unique potency to the offence, what he saw from his teammates under Rafael Benitez could be one way to have a functioning battery of strikers rather than over-reliance on one.
3. Michy Batshuayi scores another brace for Belgium
Sure, it was only San Marino, but goals are goals. Before long, Chelsea will be playing the down-the-pyramid version of San Marino in the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup. Those games will come amidst the Champions League, and Frank Lampard will not want to tax his best XI domestically when a European night awaits.
Tammy Abraham is making himself the favourite and Olivier Giroud has the experience, but that still leaves a place for Michy Batshuayi, even if it is just racking up pot-shots against Grimsby or Macclesfield Town. Those goals and those competitions are important, just as rest and recovery is for Tammy Abraham.
While we are not resigning ourselves to Batshuayi spending most of his season on the bench and emerging only for early-round domestic cup ties, that seems to be the way things are going… again… inexplicably.
The man knows how to score. He no longer needs to prove it for club or country.
One day we’ll find out why he is perennially on the outside looking in.