Chelsea entered this game unbeaten in this year’s Premier League and off the back of two very different but nonetheless equally impressive wins against Arsenal and FC Nordjsælland. Chris Hughton has had a rather troubled start to his Norwich career, failing to pick up a win in any of his six Premier League games.
The line ups here are largely as expected, the only change for Chelsea compared to the side who played Arsenal is that Lampard comes in for Ramires. Ramires’ off the ball energy and box to box role was deployed against Arsenal with great effect and was part of the reason Santi Cazorla was so quiet in last weekends games – however, in a game where Chelsea will expect to dominate, Lampard’s superior on ball ability earned him the place, as he will be able to operate as part of a double pivot to support the attacking four more effectively. Norwich started as expected, with Wes Hoolahan playing just off of Grant Holt in a free role and will be the hub of Norwich’s attacking threat.
Opening blows: Norwich unsettle Chelsea by exploiting space out wide
Chelsea lined up as they have done for much of this season with a front three of Mata, Oscar and Hazard behind Fernando Torres. This narrow axis is integral to the play Chelsea play and in an attacking sense and has proven extremely effective with Mata and Hazard now leading the assist tables on four assists each this season and ultimately, in this game, Norwich tried to combat this with a condensed defence and midfield of their own and failed. However, it does bring up an interesting point in exploiting Chelsea’s main area of weakness. Because they are so narrow, any width is provided through the full backs, namely Cole and Ivanovic.
This is all well and good, as Ivanovic can deliver a cross or play back in field to a midfield option. The trouble comes from when Chelsea lose the ball. The Mata/Oscar/Hazard trio is deadly, but also very attack minded and unwilling to cover their full-backs when they commit to an attack. Here we can see how far up the pitch he ventures and how Wes Hoolahan (Number 14) can easily exploit the space behind the midfield, particularly in those wide positions. This is emphasised by Norwich’s opening goal. The ball was delivered from a wide position where Ivanovic gave the attacker too much time and on the other side, Ashley Cole had to cover two Norwich attackers, one of which then laid the ball off to a charging Grant Holt. Though Norwich were unable to sustain the counter attacks throughout the game, stronger teams will be able to exploit this weakness in the Chelsea game, as shown by the cross map from last week’s game against Arsenal.
Next Page: Chelsea’s quality and Eden Hazard pitch maps, Wes Hoolahan – a spark for Norwich!