Chelsea kicked off their defense of The Barclay’s Premier League title against Swansea City in what would turn out to be an entertaining fixture, even without the inclusion of the drama concerning the medical staff. Dropping to ten men due to Courtois seeing red made things tricky for the champions, but both teams shared the spoils at the end of the day – a fair result.
Chelsea can’t afford to rest on their laurels, though, with Manchester City next in line. West Brom were easily put to the sword and Chelsea will be wary of the threat of the likes of David Silva, Sergio Agüero, Yaya Toure and new boy Raheem Sterling. As Chelsea look toward this huge fixture early on, their match with Swansea provides a good benchmark to assess how the team is doing so far.
Chelsea started the game positively, and the same can be said of Swansea who came out to play as opposed to sitting back and defending. Both teams did their fair share of pressing with Chelsea holding the edge in possession. Chelsea’s more positive approach against weaker opposition is to be expected by now, but chances created were few and far between in the early stages and that should pose a concern.
Oscar hasn’t had a great 2015 so far and the onus was certainly on him to step up once again. Starting seasons strongly seems to be his cup of tea as he was Chelsea’s best player in the first half and his performance was rewarded with a goal, albeit unintentional, from an in-swinging set piece. He was dictating play from the midfield and carrying the ball forward to attack as well – something he wasn’t doing enough of before and something that you’d expect Cesc Fabregas to be doing also in the game which was not so. Fabregas’ presence was missing for large parts of the game, which was a more frequent occurrence in the grinding business end of last season. He might want to forget this performance as soon as possible with City on the horizon.
Hazard’s acclimatization to his more central starting role seems to be having some growing pains, as Chelsea struggled to create meaningful chances through him in the final third. Much like Fabregas, his involvement was limited and his moments of magic on the dribble were nowhere to seen in the first half. The second half brought the real Eden Hazard back to life and he was at the heart of everything when they fell to 10 men. His wonderful second-half performance might not have earned 3 points, but it should do well for his confidence going forward.
Confidence might not be something Branislav Ivanovic has much of after the horror show he had on Saturday. He got caught in possession too often for a player of his caliber and Jefferson Montero had a field day running at him. Raheem Sterling should definitely fancy his chances against the Serb in a few days time. Despite his defensive woes, Ivanovic showed that he has become quite formidable going forward, with his 3 shots being the most of any player in the game. This statistic should raise some serious questions as to the issues in chance creation of the midfielders and attackers. Questions over Ivanovic’s defensive competence and solidity will continue to be asked. Abdul Baba Rahman’s move from FC Augsburg seems a foregone conclusion at this point and many wonder if that may prompt Cesar Azpilicueta’s return to right-back. It certainly would be more possible if Ivanovic doesn’t improve his defensive form.
The Mourinho Mind Games
One wouldn’t be too shocked if Diego Costa wasn’t even injured at all. As usual, there were doubts as to whether he or not he would be match fit and Jose Mourinho certainly made it seem that it was more likely for Loïc Rémy or Radamel Falcao to get the nod. Lo and behold, it was Costa who started and he looked as sharp as ever. Swansea stayed compact in defense which made it difficult for him, but if his supply line were up to par, then it would have been business as usual for the Spaniard.
Chelsea go into round two of the Barclays Premier League with mixed emotions. Ivanovic was highlighted earlier as the main defensive culprit but, in fact, the team wasn’t very settled while defending against Swansea. Perhaps the menacing threat of Montero was unexpected but nevertheless, Jose Mourinho probably will want to address their organization urgently. Most of the key players in the starting midfield and attack are looking sharp and ready to go, save for Cesc Fabregas. Chelsea had a few more gears to go in attack and an on-form Fabregas would have definitely taken them there. He needs to regain that world class form he had this time last season as soon as possible.
Given the unfortunate circumstance with the sending off of Courtois, few will complain about Chelsea’s start to the campaign. The team had good moments and even looked better when down to ten men. Even with Manchester City’s confident start, West Brom sat deep with no pressure and wasn’t anywhere near decent to make a game of things. When things do get underway at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, it’s safe to say that the Light Blues won’t be afforded the same luxury.