Chelsea advanced to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup following a rough 1-0 victory over Barnsley. In a game that had far more lows than it had highs, the Blues managed to persevere and scrape up what you can call a “kind of win that makes you league winners,” but in this case, it was in a cup. There were quite a few talking points, both positive and negative, but mostly the latter. However, a win’s all that matters, and Chelsea will face Sheffield United in the next round in late March.
Here’s what we learnt from the Blues’ latest victory:
1. What was going on in the first half?
This was the fifth game in charge for Thomas Tuchel, and the fourth win in a row for Chelsea now. It was against a team in the Championship, and if you didn’t watch the game, you won’t believe the next line. This was, by far, the most struggling win in the Tuchel era—it wasn’t close. This was the win the Blues had to work for the most; it was almost unbelievable.
Chelsea had no answers for Barnsley’s amazing high press. Tuchel’s side lost the ball so many times in the first 10 minutes that it didn’t look like it would be able to pull off a win. The Blues didn’t have Thiago Silva, which was completely on show as Andreas Christensen had the worst time trying to break Barnsley’s press and get the ball out of the defensive third. It was very painful to watch, but here’s the thing: they shouldn’t need Silva to bail them out in the first place. As well as Barnsley performed, the Tykes are still a team from the second division. Players like Emerson, Kurt Zouma and Christensen should be doing a lot better than this.
Fortunately for the Blues, Barnsley did not finish its chances. If Chelsea played like this against a better team than the mid-table Championship side, it would be out of the FA Cup by now. This was a lucky escape. The Blues lost the ball so many times during the first 10-20 minutes, and even after that period. Tuchel mentioned that the win is all that matters, and he’s right, but he knows that this performance can’t be repeated. Maybe I’m being overcritical, maybe not, but you can’t convince me that this was a solid performance by any means.
The second half was better, definitely. Chelsea switched to a 4-3-3 and took control of the game, for the most part, but still struggled to close things out.