In Sports / Uncategorized by stephen abiodun on the 14th, February, 2020

Chelsea vs. Man U: Five things to watch for, from Fernandes to Arrizabalaga

Chelsea take on Manchester United for the third time this season, aiming for their first result. Here are a few things to look for at Stamford Bridge.

Frank Lampard must be sick of the sight of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s face. The jury is still out on whether Solskjaer is the right manager for a club of Manchester United’s size, but no one can ignore the experience he has gathered in his managerial career. This has shown in his record against “big six” teams this season. Solskjaer has taken an impressive 11 out of 18 points from them, including three from Chelsea. Say what you want about the guy, but give credit where it’s due.

1. Bruno Fernandes against a disheveled defense

Bruno Fernandes’s first game in the Premier League was against Wolverhampton Wanderers. He was the man of the match, but he did not have many opportunities to display creative acumen. Many don’t. Not against Wolves. They are the Wolves that made Kevin De Bruyne look average.

This Chelsea team, especially the defense, is not as disciplined as Wolves’. If anything, the reverse is the case.

Chelsea make it a lot easier for creative playesr to play around. Their defensive organization is abysmal, and the one-on-one battles depend entirely on which player finds himself isolated. The back line is going to need to be a little bit more organized to nullify the threat posed by Fernandes.

2. Which team has the cutting edge?

Frank Lampard’s first competitive game as a Chelsea manager saw him take a 4-0 thrashing at Manchester United. Those four goals came out of five shots on target. Chelsea had seven shots on target in that game.

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Lampard has been going on about Chelsea not being able to finish chances and it may begin to sound like “Oh, the same old ‘finishing chances’ excuse.” It’s not.

Chelsea has taken the second-most shots in the league, and has scored the fourth most goals. Their forwards need to do better. They should be scoring a lot more goals than they are. If they did, as a necessary consequence the team would be registering more points than they have.

Manchester United have players who can seize a chance and score a goal when needed. Chelsea has gone several games where they could not convert multiple chances into goals. Whoever leads the line for the Blues on Monday should know that his performance will very much be a deciding factor come the full time whistle.

3. Defensive organization

It is a nightmare watching Chelsea try to get into some semblance of a defensive formation when they lose the ball in the final third. They are so bad at it that it brings tears to Jose Mourinho’s eyes.

Chelsea are often careless in possession, so when they lose the ball in the final third every single Chelsea players starts scrambling to get back. It is frustrating to watch and seeing everything come to a point on the centerbacks, who have no good options left after all their teammates have been caught out further upfield.

Chelsea’s central and defensive midfielders need to communicate better and not get overly adventurous when Chelsea have the ball. N’Golo Kante will be crucial if Chelsea is to have any chance at any defensive performance. Kante won five ground duels and had five interceptions in Chelsea’s 4-0 routing of Manchester United in the 2016/17 season, the level of performance the Blues will need from him on Monday.

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4. Who starts between the sticks?

Chelsea is in a goalkeeper situation right now. The Chelsea board would not have expected to hear that statement a season ago when they went to great trouble to secure the signature of Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Arrizabalaga has not impressed this season. Many people remember his iconic penalty save in the Europa League and then say he is getting too much heat as he is a good goalkeeper and Chelsea fans are being unfair. But every metric shows that Arrizabalaga is grossly underperforming.

Frank Lampard prides himself on a merit-based system, and while that has its flaws (which Lampard is suffering now), he has shown that he indeed will drop his No. 1 if it came to it.

Willy Caballero’s performance against Leicester City was… meh. Some say he shouldn’t have come out for the second goal, some say he did better than Arrizabalaga, some say he did worse.

It now remains to be seen where Lampard goes from here. Did he drop Arrizabalaga as a way just to say “See, I can drop our record signing?” If that is so, will he immediately reinstate him to the starting XI against Manchester United?

Did he drop Arrizabalaga as a way of saying “I’ll take my chances with Caballero. After all, can’t be any worse?”

Caballero cannot be judged on one Premier League game, but it would be illogical to give him a starting goalkeeper’s amount of playing time just to see if he might be a better option. Or would it?

It is generally accepted that, overall, Arrizabalaga is better than Caballero. However, Lampard would be within his rights to drop Arrizabalaga according to his own merit-based system. But then where does he go from there?

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5. The reaction of the youth

Frank Lampard was not the only one scarred by the first Premier League game of the season. The Chelsea academy graduates would have felt a bit inadequate, too.

That first match against United would have raised some doubt in each of their minds, questioning their readiness, mentality, passion and footballing ability. A 4-0 hiding tends to have that effect, especially if it’s your first foray into Premier League football for a club of this size.

Watch out for a reaction from the kids. The Cobham graduates will not only be playing for points, they’ll be playing for their pride.

Solskjaer has already gotten the better of them twice this season. They will do everything they can to make sure United don’t go 3/3 on the season.

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