Chelsea managed to beat Burnley at home today, ending a bad run of home games where they have really struggled to pick up points against smaller sides.
Burnley were well beaten in the end, but it was a real uphill struggle. Chelsea were pretty dire in the first half, and the second period saw Burnley forced to push forwards more, exposing themselves to attacks.
The first goal was fortunate, coming after Willian dived for a penalty. The second came from a superb cross from the right, but it was only allowed in by a brain-freeze from the keeper.
By the second half we had improved however, and the third goal was the result of a great bit of play down the left, concluding with Cesar Azpilicueta’s right footed cross that bent into the path of Callum Hudson-Odoi as he slid in to finish the goal off.
After that there was more promising play, especially down the right where Hudson-Odoi and James linked up nicely. Simon Philips wrote about the potential of that combination last week, and it was our outstanding feature this time.
The final half an hour saw us create plenty but finish nothing, in a damning reminder of our need to be more clinical. In this game we survived our wastefulness, and actually saw the game out pretty well in the final stages.
Overall, there were plenty of positives to take from the game, and some areas to work on too. Frank Lampard will have plenty of tweaks to make this week ahead of our punishing run of fixtures. These three points at home were vitally important, because we can’t be sure how many more of them we’ll be getting in the next couple of months.
Next weekend we go to Newcastle, never an easy game for us, and it only gets trickier than that in the league subsequently. Marathonbet have us as favourites for the game, but not heavily at all, as January trips to St James’ Park, even against weaker Magpies sides, aren’t easy. The game is the late kick off too, televised on Sky Sports to ramp up the local atmosphere even further.
After that comes Leicester away, a vital game in the race for fourth place. The Foxes will know they can really pull away in their quest for Champions League football with a win over us, and after getting a draw at Stamford Bridge back in August we’re well aware they’re capable.
Following that, Manchester United and then Tottenham come to Stamford Bridge, both looking to reel us in as they attempt to overhaul us in the race for continental football. They’ve had their troubles this season, but both are well capable of doing us damage, and coming out of that patch with 6 points is a big ask.
All of this is being played around games in the FA Cup and our two legged tie with Bayern Munich in the Champions League. This is a serious stretch on all fronts, and we’ve got time to strengthen our squad before it kicks off. Lampard said in his press conference yesterday that nothing is “imminent” in the next couple of days, but we’d be shocked if we make it to the Leicester game, say, without a new face or two.
We’ve got a week until we take on Newcastle, meaning plenty of time to get a player in before even our next match. Whether that’s a backup for Tammy, a defensively minded midfielder to fill in for N’Golo Kante, or another wide player to add some threat to our attack in games at home where we’ve struggled to break teams down; a new face will bring a big boost.
Whoever it is, they will certainly have their work cut out with those early fixtures. Talk about a baptism of fire, they are going to get thrown into the deep end, which may well be what they crave. Wilfried Zaha has been begging for his chance to step his game up, and may get his chance soon.
Just imagine him banging in the winner against Bayern in a month’s time and silencing the crowd in Munich. You can just picture it, can’t you? Stranger things have happened.
Let’s see how these vital next few weeks play out.