Chelsea went into the weekend’s match with a lot of pressure on them and recorded a crucial victory against Manchester United to strengthen their position in the Premier League. It looks unlikely that they will challenge to retain their title, but they will be looking to remain in touching distance of Manchester City. Antonio Conte made a few changes to his team and one of the most interesting ones was the decision to play Tieumoue Bakayoko in a more advanced role. The French midfielder was often the one furthest forward and offering support to Alvaro Morata. It may be that it was one a one-off tactical move for the match against United, but he showed enough promise there to suggest he could be useful in the role.
The 23-year-old showed intelligent movement in the final third and regularly found space to operate in. During the match, he attempted four shots on goal, which was the most of any Chelsea player. It was evident that he needs to work on his finishing and decision-making, but Conte will take encouragement from his contribution. In addition to his four shots, he completed one dribble and made one key pass, showing that he can be effective in an attacking role.
Although he was used in a more advanced role, Bakayoko continued to work hard out of possession and helped Chelsea win the midfield battle. He completed two tackles and two interceptions to win possession back for his team. The display was impressive in both halves of the pitch. He may not have been the one to receive the plaudits, but his manager will have been very impressed. In the long term, it seems that the best midfield partnership for the Blues will be Bakayoko playing alongside N’Golo Kante.
The start of the season has been a good one for Bakayoko, as he has quickly adapted to the Premier League after leaving Monaco in the summer. He wasn’t known for his attacking quality when he signed, but a contribution of one goal and two assists is very impressive for a player in his central role. There is a lot of potential in his game and he seems a great fit for the style of football in this country. He is powerful and aggressive which makes him a nightmare to go up against in the middle of the park.
It has been his ball-winning ability that has shone through most at this early stage. He averages 2.71 tackles won and 1.65 interceptions per ninety minutes. This is Kante level, but he is a good partner for his compatriot and over time, he will develop into a fine replacement for Nemanja Matic. He offers more dynamism in the middle of the park. His attacking impact has been surprising, with an average of 1.3 shots and 0.71 chances created per ninety minutes. If he continues to be given license to get forward, these will improve and he could be a dangerous weapon in Chelsea’s armoury.
There was a lot made of Chelsea’s decision to sell Nemanja Matic to a rival club, but Bakayoko looks to be a great signing to replace him. On Sunday, he performed better than the man he was brought in to replace and that should give him lots of confidence moving forward. At the age of 23, he has a lot of room for improvement and he is playing under the right coach to bring out the best in him.