A Didier Drogba goal, his 100th in the Premier League, gave RDM all three points in his first home game as Chelsea manager against 10 man Stoke City who offered very little going forward. John Terry & Ashley Cole returned to the starting line up, Luiz was given rest & we went with the same 4-2-3-1 system that was used in the FA Cup game vs Birmingham. Mata & Sturridge were on the bench as RDM set out a side to match the physical nature of the Stoke side.
We moved the ball quickly from the outset & had an early chance from a corner which Ivanovic headed over. Then, Cahill did well to exploit the space, took the ball to edge of Stoke penalty area & unleashed a powerful shot which was tipped around the post by Begovic. Fuller was given his marching orders on 24th min for an ugly stamp on Ivanovic which deserved a red card at the very least. Terry & Ivanovic both hit the woodwork before RDM decided to bring on Mata for Meireles in the 37th min & changed the system to 4-1-4-1 with Mata & Lampard operating together centrally for the first time.
We kept probing & passing the ball quicker without creating many chances (Usual case this season). We had 71.4% of possession, a total of 538 passes but only 197 of them were in the final third & created only 18 chances out of which only one was a clear-cut chance. On the flip side, at least we had 100% efficiency this time around.
More on Page 2: Off the ball running and Mata in the Final Third via StatsZone
Our off the ball movement this game was better than the last game & this contributed to the goal. Sturridge & Lampard exchanged passes before Lampard went advancing forward, Sturridge passed the ball to Mata who beat a man & forced a central defender to come forward which meant Drogba was clear on goal. Mata did what he does best, slipped in a delightful through ball to Drogba whose finish was exquisite. What these stats do not show is the contribution of Lampard & Kalou to this goal. Lampard took a defender along with him as he went into an advancing position & Kalou stayed wide which made sure that there was created for Drogba. Kalou did what was asked of him, he stayed wide, was neat in possession without being his usual enigmatic self & his work rate was excellent.
Crossing & Set Piece delivery is an area which needs to be addressed. We had 35 crosses in the game but only 6 of them found a team-mate. Stoke had only 120 passes in the attacking half compared to Chelsea’s 398. It is often misunderstood that if the opposition offers nothing going forward, it makes your victory easy. In fact it is the opposite, Stoke city defended with 11 men(10 men after Fuller was sent off ) behind the ball & naturally we found it tough to break them down. Stoke’s defending from Set pieces & corners were abysmal. Unless the referee awards penalties for those, Stoke will not stop doing it. Despite all that,we kept on probing & eventually, the goal came, ensuring us 3 points.
We have moved in the right direction after recovering from the sacking of AVB which bodes well for the games coming up. We face Man City (A), Tottenham (H) & Aston Villa (A) next in the PL and we need players with right frame of mind & confidence to make sure that the minimum requirement of 4th place finish is achieved. For now, Bring on Napoli!
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes a author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.