Player Ratings: Chelsea vs. Brentford #CHEBRE
JAN 28TH, 2017 | STAMFORD BRIDGE
On to the 5th round of the FA cup for Chelsea as the blue saw of the championship side Brentford FC 4-0 at Stamford Bridge. It was smooth sailing with for the hosts who made 9 changes to the starting line up from last weekend to see 4 academy products in the starting line up - the first time since 2010. Among these were Nathan Ake who slotted in at LWB, Nathaniel Chalobah who partnered Cesc Fabregas in midfield, Ruben Loftus-Cheek who played forward alongside Michy Batshuayi and the captain himself, John Terry, who was in the middle of a back three with Zouma and Azpilicueta alongside him.
Four goals scored, non conceded and Chelsea look in good shape heading into the week when they will face Liverpool. More so, Chelsea had the chance to give extended playing time to youth like Chalobah, Zouma and Loftus-Cheek while also having a first look at the returnee Nathan Ake, this meant the more regular starters got some well deserved rest ahead of midweek. It was a move that paid multiple dividends; the youth continue to play an increasingly important role at Chelsea and the “old guard” like JT and Ivanovic still play a part in what could be their last season at the club. Also Kenedy finally got some playing time which suggest there will be more opportunities for him at the club this season.
It would be cruel to dwell on any negatives after such a convincing win, yet Chelsea did miss multiple goal scoring opportunities which was quite frustrating. The only other real downer was Charly Mosunda’s absence from the team sheet. This is a strong indicator that Conte does not believe he is ready yet and hence the youngsters journey through the loan system is set to continue. Another notable absence was Ola Aina who before today seemed to be finding his feet at the club, perhaps it is conjecture but a loan away seems likely.
Take one point off for not including Charly Mosunda or Ola Aina, other than that there was nothing more Conte could do. Today was an incredible balance of fringe players, veteran players, youth players and academy products, and It produced perfect results.
There seems to be real fire under the smoke regarding Begovic’s departure from Chelsea to Bournemouth, however the Chelsea back up goal keeper looked locked in all game. He made a couple of phenomenal saves when it looked a certain goal, bailing out his defence on many an occasion. His was confident on the ball when he had to play out from the back and gave no hopes to the high pressing efforts of Brentford. If this was his last game, it was a phenomenal goodbye and Chelsea would be losing an excellent goal keeper.
He was very good in forward possession, playing in dangerous crosses with his left foot and linking up well with the midfield. Yet perhaps because of his switch to the right side of defence after living on the left this season, he had a couple of nervy moments in vital areas that put Chelsea under pressure. Nonetheless he was solid generally and his versatility was pivotal in enabling Conte to make as many changes as he made today.
John Terry: 6
It is always thrilling to see the captain in the lineup after losing his place to David Luiz in the first eleven. Terry was good positionally, went forward with intent and made more than a few vital interceptions in the box. However he was beaten too easily in the penalty box on more than one occasion and but for phenomenal efforts by Begovic, could have been culpable for two goals.
Like Terry, Zouma has had to battle prolonged injury and slowly make his way back into action for Chelsea. He made a few intriguing forays into attacking positions, and could have had a hand in a goal himself. Linked up with his midfielders, made good tackles and interceptions and was good in bringing the ball up from defence. However his positioning still leaves much to be desired and as such he was often bailed out by his physicality. He is still rusty and far from the defensive juggernaut he promises to be.
Pedro could and perhaps should have score two more goals. Pedro was caught out defensively on multiple occasions and these are the only reasons he does not get a 10 here. Other than these he had yet another phenomenal game and his goal scoring record continues this season continues. He was vital to so many attacking plays and looked at any moment to score or create a chance. Full of energy and abundance it is not hard to see why Conte trusts him in many roles, today he played as a RWB. He might be Chelsea’s most versatile player yet and this versatility and consistency has been the key to Conte’s ability to switch up the system so fluidly and bring in so many younger players. He has become a true gem in this side, perhaps our most important player this season.
Fabregas: 9 MOTM
Although more limited in his starting appearances this season, Fabregas has taken his opportunities quite phenomenally. For a player lacking in physicality, his presence on the pitch against any opposition is commanding. Today yet again he was the orchestrator in chief for Chelsea. The glue that held all possession together. In the first half he was untouchable but even in the second half when Brentford got more aggressive, he was measured, calculated and equally effective. His passing ability is second to none; long range, mid range and his short range angled passing around opposition are an exhibition and so it was today as well. However, nobody’s perfect and his neck beard has denied him a 10 in my ratings today.
Disappointing. Chalobah’s game started with poor touches, and lost possessions and it was frustrating to watch. He was far too casual on the ball and spotty in his passing and tackling in midfield. He did grow into the game as it went on, and began to be more useful in linking defence to attack but it was a performance that left much more to be desired from the young man.
Nathan Ake: 7
T’was the first look for Chelsea returnee Nathan Ake, after such a successful time away on loan in the premier league, hopes are high that he have continued success with Chelsea. He was solid, all game. Deployed at left wing back for the first time, he may not yet be as comfortable in the role as Alonso or as impressive in attacking possession but he showed more that enough to suggest that he could make that role his, or even the Center Back role for that matter. One thing that stood out was his defensive ability in that role and that could be the area where he is ahead of Marcos Alonso at the moment. Competition for spots in a merit based environment is always a good thing and right now, the LWB spot seems secure for Chelsea because of the arrival of Nathan Ake.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: 6
The youngster had a good game overall, but there are still many qualities that are left to be desired from him and while they can be overlooked or even innocuous against smaller teams in domestic cups, it will make it very difficult for him to make the leap into a true first team player in the premier league. For one he often is painfully casual on the ball, and Chelsea’s attacking front three is as dangerous as they are because of their incisiveness and urgency on the ball. Physically, he is immense and that is an asset that he needs to utilize more effectively, in this game his decision making was not great and more so, his finishing needs much work if he hopes to add goals to his game. Maybe a little harsh given that Chelsea won 4-0, but the club will want Loftus-Cheek’s potential to take him far beyond domestic cup flourishes against championship sides.
Michy Batshuayi: 7
It’s easy to see where Batshuayi still needs improvement. His first touch often betrays him, his decision making needs improvement and his composure overall when presented with a chance is not convincing. That said it is also easy to see his potential. Overall he had a very good game, scoring a goal and getting an assist. He made good runs through out that put Brentford on the back foot and held up play quite well on many on occasion to link with his team mates. He is not the finished product, but he is getting there, his tireless endeavour and determination are good signs that he will fulfill his potential.
The Brazilian blur set the stage for a remarkable night when his perfect free kick connected to give Chelsea the lead early on. He was a remarkable threat all game with his pace and strength in possession and those same qualities made him absolutely devastating on the counter attack whenever Brentford ventured forward. Was replaced in the second half to give some minutes to Ivanovic.
As time winds sound on the impressive career of Branislav Ivanovic, any appearance on the pitch is to be savoured and today he gave the fans a masterclass. A throwback to the very best of the Serbian Bearman. All adjectives are to be used swashbuckling, buccaneering , a whip lash down the right. Branna took over RWB when he came on tonight and relieved Pedro of the defensive duties, he immediately eliminated the threat that Brentford were beginning to create via that wing and became a threat himself. Bearing down the flanks, he scored a goal and should have had an assist as well when he played the most sumptuous of passes to Pedro who slipped at the vital moment although he had only the goal keeper to beat. He continued to create chances in the game through tantalizing crosses from that wing. Perhaps this performance means we will sea Branna a few more times this season and that he is will leave with a couple of trophies, regardless if this was the last time, it was one to remember and the brilliant way to say goodbye.
Although he came in with 20 minutes to go, the game was effectively over already and he was not able to influence proceedings hence his “No Rating.” His inclusion today however means that he will not be going out on loan and will be useful in some capacity for the team at least till the season ends. It also gave us an opportunity to see what position Conte sees fit for him, which is Left Wing Back as expected. He had a few cameos going forward with some good combinations with Diego Costa, defensively also he combined well with Ake to recover possession on a few instances. His endeavour is always laid bare and on evidence of his display it is foreseeable that he grows into a more stable role in the not-so-distant future.
Diego Costa: NR
Came in late on for Pedro and yet still managed to be a nuisance at least. Was not able to get the customary Costa goal but not for lack of trying. Looked to link up with Kenedy and held up possession in the final third well.