Chelsea 1-1 Newcastle (4-2 pen) : 4 Blues lessons learned

Chelsea v Newcastle United - Carabao Cup Quarter Final
Chelsea v Newcastle United - Carabao Cup Quarter Final / Julian Finney/GettyImages

Chelsea secured a spot in the EFL Cup semi-final with a thrilling victory over Newcastle United in a penalty shootout. Callum Wilson initially put Newcastle ahead with a goal, but Chelsea responded with a late equalizer from Mykhailo Mudryk. In the decisive penalty shootout, the hosts showcased flawless precision, successfully converting each of their spot kicks. However, the visitors faced misfortune as Kieran Trippier missed his kick, and Djordje Petrovic saved Matt Ritchie's penalty.

Four Chelsea lessons learned

1. The match showed Mauricio Pochettino what is wrong with his fullback player selection

Tuesday night saw a familiar tactical move by Pochettino, deploying centrebacks in the fullback positions. However, the significant improvement in his team's performance became evident with the introduction of proper fullbacks. Malo Gusto initially took the left-back position before transitioning to his natural right-back role. The turning point occurred with the entry of Ian Maatsen, as Chelsea began to dominate Newcastle from either side. The expansion of the host's width during that critical moment was because of the presence of genuine fullbacks on the field.

Ian Maatsen's standout performance should be a wake-up call for Chelsea's head coach. Neglecting to utilize such a young and talented academy graduate in favor of makeshift fullbacks seems counterproductive. Providing Maatsen with more game time could potentially influence the Dutchman's decision to extend his stay at Chelsea. Currently, there's a risk that he might consider moving on due to a lack of playing minutes while his contract is gradually running down.

Malo Gusto excelled as a left-back initially before seamlessly transitioning to his preferred right side, displaying no signs of rustiness. His impactful contribution was evident when his well-placed cross led to a mistake by Trippier, ultimately resulting in Mudryk's goal. The fitness and form of the French fullback are crucial for Chelsea, especially with Reece James currently sidelined due to injury.

2. Silly mistakes at the back are still an issue

The goal conceded by Chelsea was a result of their mistakes, originating from a corner they took. Levi Colwill received the ball, but his pass went astray, heading directly toward Wilson instead of the intended target, Moises Caicedo. At that moment, Chelsea had Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiashile in defense. Initially, Silva made a mistake in clearing the ball, and although it seemed like Badiashile had the situation under control after a heavy touch from the Newcastle player, his attempt to move the ball backfired as it hit his leg. This unfortunate turn of events allowed Wilson to capitalize and score, leaving Petrovic with no chance to make a save.

The conceded goal was avoidable and had Mudryk not scored the equalizer, Chelsea would have found themselves on the brink of elimination, with the responsibility squarely on their laps. Eliminating such errors is imperative for Chelsea to return to their intended level of performance. Learning from experiences like these will be vital for the team's progress and success in the long run.

3. Christopher Nkunku finally made his debut

The 69th minute of the match marked the eagerly anticipated debut of Nkunku, a moment many Chelsea fans had been hoping for. Nkunku exhibited composure on the field. Had Raheem Sterling provided a more accurate pass, he might have marked his debut with a goal. His well-taken kick during the shootout would help his confidence.

4. The final minutes and shootout saw the belief

The first half mirrored Chelsea's performance against Sheffield United, characterized by a lack of desire and creativity. The team struggled to break through Newcastle's midfield. When they managed to do so, the receiving player often opted for backward passes. The changes made in the second half highlighted that many of the issues were self-inflicted by Pochettino.

Chelsea's performance in converting chances left room for improvement, managing just four shots on target out of 15 attempts. The discrepancy between their prowess seen in training and the match was evident. Additionally, there's a need for a significant improvement in putting pressure on opponents and match officials. Despite Newcastle United engaging in time-wasting tactics, Chelsea players didn't express their displeasure as assertively as needed, and even the fans refrained from signaling their discontent through whistles, a strategy commonly employed by other teams. Addressing these aspects will be crucial for Chelsea to enhance their overall match performance.

Despite facing challenges, Chelsea maintained relentless pressure. The fans regained their voice just before the equalizing goal once the intent was visible after the changes. Mudryk's goal was a well-deserved culmination of their efforts.

The precision in Chelsea's penalty kicks was remarkable before Petrovic left an indelible mark on his new club with a stunning save that concluded the match. Fans are optimistic, hoping the squad can sustain this spirit into the upcoming holiday season matches and beyond.