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Monday, August 2, 2021

Three overreactions to Chelsea’s win at Arsenal on Sunday

  Chelsea defeated Arsenal 2-1 in The Mind Series’ inaugural match on Sunday. Kai Havertz opened the scoring at the Emirates just shy of the...


Chelsea defeated Arsenal 2-1 in The Mind Series’ inaugural match on Sunday. Kai Havertz opened the scoring at the Emirates just shy of the half-hour mark with a thunderous strike into the top right corner. Bernd Leno was beaten for a second time about 50 minutes later when Tammy Abraham slotted the eventual game winner into the back of the net. The Blues played well for a majority of the match, but once the second wave of substitutes came into the contest, the visitors’ grip on the game began to loosen.

There were a handful of brilliant individual performances that led to a lot of buzz on social media. Of course, the fact this was a preseason contest will sometimes get lost in these mentions, so there are bound to be overreactions. It’s important during the friendlies to not lose sight of the circumstances. Therefore, it’s time to set the record straight.

Here are three overreactions from Chelsea’s win over Arsenal and why they are classified as such:

1. Trevoh Chalobah should contend for a starting spot

Trevoh Chalobah got the start in the center of a three-man defense on Sunday. The 22-year-old ended up playing longer than any other player for Thomas Tuchel’s side, getting 86 minutes under his belt. Suffice it to say, he made the most of his time on the pitch. Chalobah earned Man of the Match honors from The Pride of London and was widely regarded as one of the best players on the pitch by almost everyone involved.

This praise for the former Lorient loanee has led to a handful of supporters claiming he should be competing for a spot in the Blues’ starting XI—this is simply not the case. The Chelsea back line consisting of Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva/Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger is coming off a Champions League-winning campaign in which the unit put up record defensive statistics. As it stands, all four centerbacks will be returning with Kurt Zouma and target Jules Kounde acting as the wildcards. While Chalobah was superb against Arsenal, he has a long way to go before he can claim to be on the same level as the aforementioned defenders. Luckily for him all four of the UCL starters have less than a year left on their current contracts, so space could free up soon.

The versatile Englishman does deserve to make the team though. Tuchel’s positive outlook on a large squad became known last season and it’s unlikely his view has changed in the time since. Therefore, expect some former loan army and academy players to remain with the team after the transfer window slams shut on August 31. Chalobah’s ability to play two positions (centerback and defensive midfielder) is a huge bonus in the German gaffer’s eyes, as well.

Keeping Chalobah around is a low risk, high reward decision for Chelsea. He enjoyed a very successful stint in Ligue 1 last season and has started the preseason well with his parent club. At 22, a decision needs to be made regarding his future. The correct decision is to keep him around as a role player seeing as the Blues are competing in six competitions next season, but there’s no room for him in the starting XI at this moment in time.

2. Chelsea doesn’t need a striker

A quick glance at Sunday’s scoresheet will tell you that two of Chelsea’s forwards netted goals in the friendly against Arsenal. Havertz assumed his late-season role of center forward in the first half and Abraham relieved the German of his duties to begin the second. Timo Werner also made an appearance on the left wing and Michy Batshuayi came on as a second striker toward the end of the contest. The Blues went on to win the match and the solid performances from the four aforementioned strikers prompted some rather silly questions.

After a lot of chatter regarding Chelsea’s No. 9 opening, some fans are beginning to say that the side does not need a striker—the options currently available are enough. While the Blues do have an abundance of options to fill the forward role, they still need to sign someone during this summer’s transfer window.

Tuchel has made it clear in the recent months that Abraham does not fit the system he is trying to instill. Further, Chelsea is rumored to be putting Abraham in the shop window as they look for suitors for the 23-year-old. The Englishman’s sale will not go through unless the Blues bring in a replacement, but it’s worth noting Sunday did act as a preview for Arsenal. The Gunners are interested in bringing Abraham across the capital and they won’t want to wait until the eleventh hour to get a deal across the line. Havertz has played well as a No. 9 too. Nevertheless, his sample size has been incredibly small. The concerns relating to him spending an entire season as Chelsea’s striker are obvious.

As it relates to the other two, Werner has shown he is better as a winger or in a two-striker system. The German struggles to cope with the intensity and physicality of the Premier League as a lone forward. Meanwhile, Batshuayi played well against Arsenal, but doesn’t have much of a future with the Blues after his previous struggles in the English top flight. All of this goes to show that two goals from the position in one game do not change things. Could Chelsea survive a season with those available at its disposal right now? Probably, Tuchel doesn’t want to find out though. The Blues’ top priority during the last month of the window is still a striker.

3. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is back to his 2018/19 self

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, much like Chalobah, was one of the most impressive players on the pitch at Arsenal. The midfielder took spectators back to the 2018/19 season with some of the penetrating runs he made from the middle of the park into the final third. He showed glimpses of his pre-Achilles injury self for the first time since Maurizio Sarri was roaming the touchline and donning the Chelsea badge. This led to supporters officially declaring Loftus-Cheek “back.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

While it was undoubtedly refreshing to see the academy graduate displaying his true talents in front of the new manager, he still has a long way to go in his recovery. Callum Hudson-Odoi is another perfect example of this. Pundits and fans alike have been quick to write them off in recent years due to the dip in form, but those unfairly critiquing the English internationals do not realize the amount of time it takes to get back into form.

Loftus-Cheek’s recent loan to Fulham was largely deemed a failure due to the ineffectiveness of his play. The 25-year-old struggled to make an impact in a Cottagers side that needed his creativity and darting runs. However, the silver lining is the fact the Blues conned another English side into giving him the minutes he needed to get back on the path to recovery. Going forward, Loftus-Cheek’s goal is to reach the level we all know he is capable of reaching.

The performance he put on against Arsenal did not signify his full return to his best career form. It did show Chelsea fans that there is a talented player still in there somewhere. Tuchel’s job (right now at least) is to work with the midfielder to unlock that star. The Blues have an open midfield spot due to Conor Gallagher and Billy Gilmour’s recent loans. Loftus-Cheek was always going to get a look in and Sunday’s showing went a long way in showing he is deserving of that roster place.

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