Chelsea took on Manchester United in a very unusual encounter between the two teams but came out with a very familiar result as Chelsea trounced the one goal lead taken by Manchester United in the second half in the very death of the match to seal one of the better comebacks by the Blues this season.
Zouma woes for Chelsea
It is a season which was just on the cusp of recovery but has fallen back into mire for the Chelsea fans as the best defender in Chelsea squad and one of the best in the whole league has taken one of the nastiest knocks a footballer could take. Oddly enough, there wasn’t any Manchester Player near him as he completely botched his landing from a mistimed jump and went to ground immediately. The pain he felt was actually audible via his hysterical screaming, recorded by the camera.
The landing took its toll as Zouma has probably ended his season and will leave Chelsea in a dire situation with only two senior, regular centre-halves. Cahill has been relatively error prone this season and Chelsea didn’t manage 5 minutes without conceding once Zouma was hauled off the pitch. It was already a long season for Chelsea but will now be even longer and more disappointing as another youngster has his growth stunted at the club.
Oscar needs to improve
Oscar needs to really improve his consistency with the ball at his feet as he is clearly not justifying the faith Hiddink is placing in him. It can very well be expected that he will be dropped or moved into a different position for the next match. With every passing match, the mega 60 million bid Chelsea rejected for the Brazilian looks more like a mistake. With Kenedy and Traore waiting patiently as well as Ruben Loftus-Cheek, he looks to be on borrowed time in all honesty and Chelsea will do well to replace him with a more consistent option in the squad.
Another issue with the Brazilian is that his relative flexibility with respect to his position on the pitch is actually hampering his contribution. We saw how ineffective Willian was in the number 10 role Fabregas vacated. Oscar needs to be played in his natural position and then evaluated instead of on the wing where Hazard simply ripped Darmian to shreds.
Eden Hazard is back
The way his season began, one could be forgiven to think he had passed his prime but Hazard has been changing games for Chelsea now, in fact, he has done that twice in a row in the Premier league and has been almost untouchable by the opposing defence. With the first goal in his belt, a great resurgence from the Belgian can be expected.
He was skinning Darmian repeatedly and then did the same with Jackson, Carrick and Schneiderlin. With such an impact from the bench, he surely must be in contention for a starting role under Hiddink as he looks to have recovered from the knock against Crystal Palace. Against Watford, he could’ve been involved in three goals and tonight, if Fabregas had hit the shot any harder, again he could’ve been involved in a couple. The number of free kicks he brought Chelsea were obscene as Manchester United could only trip him in response to his effervescent play.
Van Gaal gets it wrong
Louis van Gaal has been receiving stick for a long time but tonight he really botched up the tactics as soon as Manchester United scored. The blame for the draw can be placed on the flailing Blind’s shoulders as he went to ground instead of making an easy interception ahead of Costa. But in equal measure, the substitutions involving Schneiderlin and Depay were extremely disappointing in theory and alas, execution.
Schneiderlin was brought on just after United scored the goal to take the lead but the player he replaced was Fellaini. This was a clear indication that United were about to shut shop and just look to weather the storm but with Fabregas playing deeper and Hazard owning Darmian, it was doomed right from its inception. Schneiderlin was almost always pulled over to the wing to help out Darmian and in the end, one such supporting play from him led to Fabregas finding Costa in the middle and eventually score.
Depay was another misconstrued substitute from the Dutchman as he replaced Lingard, a constant threat in his current form, with a player who Chelsea wouldn’t really be bothered to mark were it not for Rooney’s support. The player was brought on to freshen up the right wing but again was anonymous in the build up to Chelsea’s goal which originated from the very wing. If only van Gaal had brought in the proper help to Darmian, the goal could’ve been avoided. A long, hard look in the mirror awaits the manager.
Hiddink can be secretly confident about his task now
At the moment, Fabregas, Costa and Hazard are carrying Chelsea. They are simply opening up the defence after another with alarming regularity and have been immense in the matches they have played together in post-Hiddink’s arrival. Hiddink, meanwhile, has shown great guile in the way he is exposing the typical English mentality to shut shop after scoring as Chelsea look to be in stronger positions when they are clawing back at opposition instead of taking the first step.
Fabregas is currently starting in the number ten role, disappointing until the hour mark and then is dropped deeper only to give Chelsea the whole and unchallenged share of possession and chances. Fabregas meanwhile is doing really well to pry open defences all along and has been at the epicentre of almost every Chelsea goal post the New Year. The trick is working as Chelsea now don’t really worry about defending deep in their box in the later stages. They aren’t really good at that anyways. Also, what gives Chelsea the edge in these circumstances is that they pile on everyone forward, pinning back the opponents. This is a shrewd move to keep away the counter attack as Chelsea look to score late in the game, which they usually have been doing so far. If this is improved upon further by Hazard, one can say that the unbeaten run will last way longer.