Chelsea returns to Premier League action with a tougher than it appears match against Fulham. What key clashes will determine the rivalry?
Just as the wheels came off for Chelsea, just a short walk down the road the right settings were found for Fulham. Mind, those settings include five league draws in a row now, but those five points may mean the difference between relegation and survival for Fulham. What key clashes should the Blues look for as they attempt to get back on track by breaking Fulham’s streak?
1. A parked bus versus Chelsea’s limp attack
Fulham has kept games close all season through a stellar defense and quick counters to steal points. When they lose possession they do not do as the cool kids do and attempt to win it back right away. Instead, the shell up and dare the opponent to break them down.
This is, of course, the exact type of opponent Chelsea has struggled with all season. Without Hakim Ziyech or superb movement between the fullback, midfielder, and winger on the flanks, the Blues get caught into having no incisiveness to their attacks. This was seen as recently as Morecambe before the players finally started rotating to create gaps and players finally started taking shots from outside the box.
That was one of the issues Chelsea had last year too which is exactly why the club got the likes of Ziyech and Kai Havertz. One is expected to pass his way through the parked bus while the other is expected to find the smallest of gaps to exploit. When both play, they are able to do this. When one or the other is missing, they seem to struggle in the absence of the other.
Then there is Timo Werner who seems to struggle any time he doesn’t have space to move into. It is probably more likely than not he will start against Fulham as the striker but there is really little reason for him to. Fulham will shell up and leave Werner no space to run into. Giroud could at least link teammates into the play and Tammy Abraham could find pockets of space, but Werner has shown little of either lately.
If Chelsea wants to break Fulham’s long run of draws, they will need more of a cutting edge to their attack than they have shown. Unfortunately, Lampard may attempt to do that with one hand tied behind his back if he selects the players he is expected to.