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Chelsea striker Giroud
English Premier League Football

Chelsea’s nervy 1-0 win against Norwich City leaves much to be desired

Chelsea striker Giroud
Premier League

Chelsea approached the clash against Norwich City, fully aware that it would be their easiest fixture in an intense three-way battle for a Champions League berth. Norwich who have been relegated, were simply battling it out to salvage some pride.

In the end, what ensued was a barely acceptable performance by the Blues, who managed to squeeze out a 1-0 win with manager Frank Lampard slamming it as an ‘OK’ performance.

Chelsea’s inefficiency nearly proves costly:

Chelsea dominated possession early on with Norwich dropping deep into their own half, defending in a 4-5-1 shape. Their back four played quite narrow, to try and limit the space afforded to the Chelsea wingers. The wide areas were covered by the Norwich wide midfielders.

The Canaries defended extremely well, maintaining their shape. The Blues struggled to attack through the middle, with acres of space in the wide areas the only advantage handed out. This advantage was exploited fully with long cross field balls played to the full backs Marcos Alonso and César Azpilicueta.

Antonio Rudiger played 13 of them while Kurt Zouma played 7 long balls, from where Chelsea could advance and attempt to get the ball into the box for Olivier Giroud to attack. Another useful tactic was using set pieces, considering Norwich have been poor in defending in such cases all season. Chelsea were quite dangerous, sending the ball just wide twice in the first half. This was aided by Norwich’s tendency to give away free-kicks in dangerous areas.

Earlier, Chelsea lined up in their regular 4-3-3 formation with Giroud up top and Christian Pulisic, Willian on the wings. Jorginho was the deepest midfielder, starting only his second game after the restart. He was assisted by Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mateo Kovačić in the middle.

Norwich started the game in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Josip Drmić up top instead of Teemu Pukki. Lukas Rupp started the game instead of Emi Buendía and Alexander Tettey as usual was the deepest midfielder, screening the back four.

The Canaries were toothless in attack, registering 0 shots attempted in the first half. They did not commit men forward on the rare counter attacks they got, preferring to stay deep into their half, and regroup for the next Chelsea attack. The midfielders ran the hard yards, covering the midfield runners and the wingers, giving the Blues no space to create an opening.

Azpilicueta and Alonso ensured dangerous crosses, with Giroud failing to finish several gilt edged chances. The goal came off a wonderful cross from Chelsea’s own Captain America, Christian Pulisic, who whipped in a wonderful cross with Giroud connecting off it, using his strength to hold off Timm Klose in the 45th minute.

Willian looked dangerous, using his pace and dribbling to take defenders on and create space for himself or for his teammates (Will a new contract arrive soon?). Jorginho again put in another solid shift in the base of midfield, always free to receive the ball and looking to play a pass quickly. He was the team’s metronome, dictating the play from deep, setting the tempo for attack and shifting the attack from one flank to another.

Pulisic was a constant nuisance, showing up in pockets of space and looking to take defenders on, trying to create space to shoot or to cross the ball.

Norwich started the second half a bit brightly, looking to press the ball up the field harrowing their opponents to make a mistake. They looked like the side from the start of the season, which had defeated Manchester City before the season went off rails. However, this ended soon and Norwich found themselves again in their own half. In the rare moments that they were able reach the Chelsea box, there was no one to cross to and Chelsea’s defenders ensured a fine performance, bravely putting in tackles to prevent any shots.

The introduction of Reece James in the right-back role, created new problems for Norwich. Reece was able to utilize the acres of space given to him by Norwich even better than Azpilicueta and put in several fast, dangerous balls, begging to be put in the back of the net.

Pukki’s introduction in the game was too late and he failed to make any impact. Buendia’s performance was lackluster and he too failed to make any impact.

The major takeaways for Norwich will be that they have been abysmal in attack, scoring just 1 goal since the restart. They have also lost 8 consecutive matches in the Premier League and should try to change some things going forward, to salvage confidence before going into the Championship. It will be very hard to keep their core intact; it will be picked apart by teams looking for bargains. Their ability to keep the core intact could predict how quickly they will be able to return to the Premier League again.

Todd Cantwell was a livewire the entire game, running back to defend and helping in attack. His consistent performances on the right wing all season have not missed the attention of major teams, and it is likely that he’ll not follow his team back to the Championship. Another such player was the right-back Max Aarons, who has a sense of adventure and likes to venture up field, looking to put in an accurate cross for the attackers to head the ball home.

Written By: Rutvik Sanghvi


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