Match Review: Chelsea at Leicester City #LEICHE
Costa Crimes Season 3 “Big Trouble from Big China”
King Power Stadium | January 14th, 2017
Back to winning ways! (and a start of another long streak?), Chelsea over the weekend bounced back from their loss to Tottenham to defeat Leicester City at the King Power stadium 3 - 0. Yes the bounce back narrative has been strong on this one as was expected going away to current league champions on Saturday however what was not expected was the latest installment of “Costa Crimes” - with a twist this time (as is necessary for all dying narratives) - against his own people. Yes; In West London where all is good and well, and the ordeal of a recent loss to Spurs seems all but certain to be overcome, there arises a scandal sure to rock the boat and jeopardize all happiness that seems to good to be true: Diego Costa turns on his own, leaving Chelsea in confusion, and disarray. Oh the suspense! oh the intrigue! as Conte screams out “Go to China!”
And so the stage was set for an unexpected Chelsea stumble against Leicester by the masters of narrative, except the main actors where left out of the loop. Conte lined up as usual in 3-4-3 and Leicester drew courage from Tottenham’s approach to play a 3-5-2. Costa who was either recovering from a back injury or learning mandarin, or both, did not travel with Chelsea and Conte adapted to his absence by playing Hazard through the middle as a false 9 with Willian and Pedro on either side of him in lieu of a direct centre forward replacement in Michy Batshuayi
Chelsea started the match brightly and immediately began to work on breaking down Leicester City but through a Matic give away in midfield the first real threat of the game was from the home side as Albrighton who had intercepted Matic’s pass set Vardy away, the striker then passed wide to Musa who then using his skill, beat Azpilicueta to produce an effort on goal. His effort was palmed out by Courtois into dangerous territory and following Vardy’s inability to get the rebound, Matic cleared the ball out of danger. Chelsea survived the scare and resumed dominance on the pitch, searching probing and controlling possession. A few minutes later they had the breakthrough through Marcos Alonso. A teasing cross was delivered in the area by Azpilicueta, so dangerous that even though Hazard was denied the initial header, the ball fell back to his feet. With his back away from goal he spotted Alonso and laid the ball perfectly for the defender to hit a first time shot from close range past Schmeichel and into the net.
Both teams continued to contend, Chelsea to add to their lead and Leicester to reclaim parity and it was Leicester who came closest to having their way initially. Albrighton played a cleaver ball to exploit the space between Alonso and Cahill, Vardy obliged to run through that Channel beat Cahill for pace to reach the ball. He then turned around and with his left foot played a low teasing ball across Courtois’ goal. It was ready to be tapped in, but Musa could not get around neither Luiz not Azpilicueta and with the insurance of his defenders Courtois dived to palm the ball out to Victor Moses who cleared the ball upfield. Before the break, Chelsea got the opportunity as well to add to their one goal. Pedro won a free kick in the attacking half and David Luiz stepped up to have a crack at it. With a man of his techniques one would have expected a direct effort on goal but instead Chelsea pulled one from the training ground and catching off guard audiences and the opposition alike; Luiz passed the ball to Eden Hazard in the box, who then played it through to Pedro, who then fired a shot before Leicester’s defence could readjust. It was a good routine but Pedro’s shot went wide of goal and Chelsea settled for the one goal advantage at the interval.
Chelsea began the second half on the ascendancy and they did in the first half and Leicester were forced to defer any comeback efforts in the meantime. Willian squared up with Fuch near the corner flag in the attacking half and although closely marked, managed to beat the Leicester City defender with sheer physicality leaving him behind to massive space attacking space. The defender thought it best to foul from behind to prevent a bad situation from getting worse and was rewarded with a yellow card. His gamble was however in futility as it was from this set piece that Chelsea got their second goal. Willian who won the free kick took it also, whipping a cross that curved away from Schmeichel’s goal to find any running attacking headers; David Luiz sought to provide one, but the ball missed his head and instead fell to the feet of Alonso just outside the Leicester City box. The left wing back settled the ball down quickly and with his second touch fired a shot on target. His shot was deflected by Wes Morgan’s defensive efforts and it beat the diving Schmeichel to the back of the net. It was Alonso second goal and Chelsea’s as well. Thes Blue now well and truly in command and Leicester on the ropes.
Claudio Ranieri sought for a way back and introduced Shinji Okazaki for Robert Huth to provide an extra attacking option and switch to their more traditional line up of four defenders at the back. Nonetheless it was Chelsea, glowing with confidence who came closest again. A clever flick from Willian allowed Moses to place a cross into Leicester’s box. The Nigerian’s cross was high and over the Leicester City defenders but perfect for his opposite wing back Marcos Alonso. The confident defender pivoted and let lose a volley towards goal, his technique was flawless but by thin margins he was denied his hat trick as Kasper Schmeichel could only stand still and watch gratefully as the shot went wide of his far post.
Not to be denied Chelsea’s third came soon after. Kante recieved the ball in midfield and found Moses, Moses found Kante, Kante found Pedro, Pedro found Willian, Willian found Pedro and Pedro found the back of an empty net through a header over Morgan as Schmeichel had gone out earlier a to challenge Willian. Chelsea remained in control from then on and dealt with Leicesters surge for a consolation till the end
Michy Batshuayi did get his chance (#MinutesforMichy) though following a set of late substitutions that saw Fabregas come in for Hazard, Loftus-Cheek for Pedro and Batshuayi for Willian. The formation was effectively changed as Conte experimented with a 3-5-2 with Loftus-Cheek playing as a auxiliary striker to Batshuayi. Foreshadowing? Probably not, for sometime now Conte has been working the 3-5-2 as an easily adaptable alternative to our traditional 3-4-3. With Loftus-Cheek’s recent performances in that role, it could be the case that the youngster sees more playing time through this formation. As for Batshuayi he still does not seem ready enough and being our only back up striker, any sensational narratives of Costa going to China this month are as silly as they come (except we witness the unexpected with Dominic Solanke).
Although Conte and Alonso and every other Chelsea source has said that there are no issues regarding Costa, the show must for the narrative masters and apparently now Costa’s teammates are taking turns begging him to stay at Chelsea. Of course it could be the case that there are some rough negotiations going on behind the scenes regarding contracts and salaries, it would be silly to assume Costa will be leaving Chelsea before the end of the season for any amount*. Watch out for the next episodes of this drama/non-drama.
Back to reality for now. Having dispatched Peterborough in their previous FA cup tie, Chelsea avoid the inconvenient replays going on this week and look towards Hull City at home on Sunday. With Manchester City slipping further down the table and Manchester United taking points from Liverpool, Chelsea will look to gain more separation from their contenders in this should-win match up against Hull to keep their margin at the top to at least 7 points before facing a more tricky fixture in the premier league away at Liverpool. The season goes on, exciting and full of unexpected twists and turns, there is no need to be distracted by fictitious stories and silly speculations. To all Chelsea fans, #KTBFFH, keep the focus and come with all your support next week as Chelsea take on Hull City at Stamford Bridge.
*The amount quoted is 30 million pounds a year, which to me is insulting. A player like Diego Costa should settle for nothing less than being the best-paid player in the world at the level he is now. And Chelsea should receive nothing less than a record-breaking transfer fee, something in the hundreds of millions of pounds - this summer, if it comes to that