Chelsea visited St James’s Park on Saturday in an entertaining lunchtime fixture and left with all three points in a hard fought 3-0 victory, despite the scoreline suggesting differently.
Chelsea should have had a man sent off in the 4th minute, as David Luiz brought down Demba Ba to deny a clear goalscoring opportunity, however referee Mike Dean thought a caution was sufficient. Chelsea went onto dominate the first half, as Sturridge caused Newcastle problems. Both teams had their chances, but Drogba finally breached the Newcastle defence on the 38th minute after a string of excellent saves from Tim Krul, including a penalty save from Frank Lampard.
Newcastle played better second half and struck the woodwork twice, but Chelsea took advantage of Steven Taylor’s injury late in the game and scored twice in the last few minutes of the match.
Chelsea target exposed Ryan Taylor
It was a slightly surprising selection on the left wing, as Peter Lovenkrands was given the nod to replace Jonas Gutierrez and one that would have adverse effects in terms of Newcastle’s defensive capabilities. It is no secret that Gutierrez offers vital cover to Ryan Taylor and unfortunately, Lovenkrands played in a more attacking role that left Taylor exposed.
As seen below from the left chalkboard, Lovenkrands didn’t strictly play on the left wing, often drifting inside (red square box) and in Chelsea’s penalty area. Whenever Chelsea regained possession, play was shifted to Sturridge very quickly, where Sturridge had time and space to use his pace against Taylor.
In Chelsea’s previous games, they have had a patient build up from the back – Cech often playing the ball to their defenders, who then move it forward to their midfielders. However in this game, Chelsea targeted Newcastle’s weaker left hand side right from kick off, with Cech aiming his kicks towards that space, opting to exploit that area as soon as possible and with great success.
Daniel Sturridge played well, effectively using his pace and trickery; often getting past Ryan Taylor and he also won Chelsea’s penalty after Yohan Cabaye fouled him in the area, but some good goalkeeping and poor finishing meant that it took him 8 shots to finally get past Tim Krul.
Cabaye and Guthrie
Danny Guthrie had another good game in Tiote’s absence, as he saw more of the ball than any player from both teams and only misplaced 5 passes out of 66 attempted. He created the most chances for the team (2) and also attempted 3 shots on goal, although none were on target.
Cabaye had an indifferent game – for the opening goal, he failed to mark Mata on the throw in and Mata crossed in for Didier Drogba to header home. Cabaye was also responsible for conceding the penalty, as he was deceived by Sturridge’s trickery. Other than the two mistakes, Cabaye passed the ball well (86% success rate) and also being successful with all 7 tackles. (Opta didn’t register Cabaye’s challenge on Sturridge for the penalty as a tackle, counted as a foul).
From the chalkboards you can see that Cabaye’s tackles were made all around the pitch. Although this can be advantageous, there were times were both Guthrie and Cabaye would both be caught out of position, either attacking or chasing the ball down and this would prove costly, as Mata would drift into the vacant area left by both players and cause problems; Mata created the most chances in the match (4) for either team. Tiote, who is more defensively minded and sits in front of Newcastle’s line of defence, would have given the back four more protection and defended the area that Mata floated into.
Similar to Tiote, Chelsea’s defensive midfielder Oriel Romeu – who had an impressive full league debut against Wolves last week – continued to perform this role and gave Chelsea’s back four some added protection. Hatem Ben Arfa, who plays the majority of his game in this area, got little joy impressive against Chelsea and was ineffective in the first half and replaced at half time. Romeu played well, making 7 out of 8 tackles and the majority just in front of Terry and Luiz.
Newcastle had their chances to attack – Obertan provided some width on the right and at times got to the byline and had the opportunity to cross. However, he failed to offer any quality in the final third – his story of the season so far.
On the other side, Lovenkrands drifted inside, so didn’t provide as much width. Although when he did, he created chances – crossing in for Demba Ba, who had his effort spectacularly saved by Petr Cech.
Newcastle performed better in the second half and up until Steven Taylor’s injury attempted more shots on goal than Chelsea (10 v 9), however Chelsea was saved by the woodwork on two occasions as well as a goal-line clearance from John Terry.
In the end, the 3-0 scoreline flattered Chelsea and wasn’t a true reflection on the match, as the contest was a lot closer up until the injury to Steven Taylor in the closing stages.
Despite having more possession (53% v 47%) and making more passes (342 v 328) than Chelsea, Newcastle couldn’t capitalise as Chelsea played their quick counter attacking football very well and in particular, Juan Mata playing in a free role and Daniel Sturridge causing problems down Newcastle’s left hand side.
Tim Krul had an outstanding match, making 6 saves including one penalty save and Newcastle were unlucky not to score after hitting the woodwork on a number of occasions. Of course, things could have been different if Luiz was sent off in the 4th mintute…
Next up is an away game at Norwich, who have established themselves quickly in the Premier League under the impressive stewardship of Paul Lambert. Injury problems at centre back, means that Newcastle will have a new defensive line for the first time this season.
Newcastle are now in 6th place, possibly 7th if Liverpool win tonight against Fulham and falling out of the top 4 since mid September. After the difficult set of games against both Manchester clubs and Chelsea, hopefully a run of ‘easier’ games will see Newcastle rise back up the table.