Chelsea 2-0 Sheffield United: 3 Blues talking points

After a disappointing and dull first 45, Chelsea scored twice in quick succession to sneak past 20th place Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge. Three Blues talking points below.
Chelsea FC v Sheffield United - Premier League
Chelsea FC v Sheffield United - Premier League / Crystal Pix/MB Media/GettyImages

An injury-riddled Chelsea FC secured a 2-0 victory against Sheffield United, offering Mauricio Pochettino a much-needed, albeit unconvincing, win. Despite a shaky start, in the 54th minute, Raheem Sterling assisted Cole Palmer, who skillfully netted a goal confirmed after a VAR review. Palmer then provided a beautiful assist to Nicholas Jackson in the 61st minute, who scored into an empty net. Although VAR checked for a potential offside, the goal stood. Christopher Nkunku didn't make his Premier League debut that many fans were hoping for, but Pochettino seems to be holding him for a future game, emphasizing high expectations for the player as the potential final piece in Chelsea's puzzle. The cautious approach reflects the coaching staff's confidence in Nkunku.

Enzo Fernandez on the bench

To everyone's surprise, the World Cup winner started on the bench against Sheffield but was later brought on as a substitute in the 69th minute. Instead, Chelsea gaffer Mauricio Pochettino opted to start the vice-captain, Conor Gallagher, as he partnered with Moises Caicedo. The former Tottenham Hotspur gaffer made a substantial shake-up in the starting XI for the Sheffield United clash at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon. Notably, the decision to place Enzo Fernandez on the bench has sparked criticism from the Blues' fanbase.

It proved to be successful for the Blues as the Cobham graduate and captain intercepted a lot of Sheffield's loose balls and had a high number of recoveries. Despite being lackluster in the final third, Gallagher was brought in for a bit more of an engine that Enzo lacks, which would then open up the attacking midfield spot where Cole Palmer was slotted in. Prior to the match, 'Poch' was questioned on the team selection and basically said his selection is based on merit.

"‪“[The team selection today] is mainly down to the form of the players and what we think could be the best combinations for us to win the game.‬
‪…We have a lot of big games coming up and with a few injuries, we have to be careful to manage the squad well.”‬"

Mauricio Pochettino

Cole Palmer: 11 goal contributions in 11 starts for Chelsea

The former Manchester City academy player is on fire for the Blues, picking up his 11th goal contribution in just 11 starts. After a lackluster first half, Palmer came alive in the second half, demonstrating the reasons why Chelsea eagerly sought to secure his services. Playing as the No.10, Palmer tends to roam freely in central and wide areas on the right flank, making things happen for CFC. I believe, much like many Chelsea fans around the world, that this is Palmer's best position, rather than using Gallagher in this spot.

There are certain games where Gallagher is suited to this position when anticipating not having the ball as much, such as games against Arsenal and Manchester City. Using an attacking midfielder to rack up recoveries, interceptions, and other defensive metrics isn't good for the long run. Giving Palmer that license to roam outside, stretching opponents to play balls into guys like Mudryk and Sterling, or even driving into the box himself is the way to go forward.

Pochettino caught a lifeline

Going into the match, Pochettino had immense pressure mounting by Chelsea supporters, after back-to-back losses against Manchester United and Everton the other week. The expectation coming into the match against bottom-of-the-league Sheffield United is, quite frankly, to wipe the floor against them. The opening 45 looked anything but that, racking up just 0.09 xG (expected goals) to Sheffield’s 0.18 - embarrassing. It looked like Chelsea was never going to score despite having nearly 80% of the possession and not really testing Wesley Foderingham.

There's a particular pattern found in Pochettino's Blues, and that is to isolate Caicedo and have his midfield partner higher up the pitch. We’ve seen it against Everton and Man UTD with Fernandez playing further apart from the Ecuadorian, and the same goes with Gallagher. This is all instructional, but thankfully it didn't cost us, albeit it's against one of the worst teams in the league. This result helps Pochettino, who didn't really have a threat of the pending boot, but rather a more serious discussion. After this 2-0 win, that inevitable debate will be postponed.