Chelsea played an extremely narrow game against Newcastle, and that had to make a difference to the final result.
With one goal coming from a set piece and the other coming late in the game from a wide position, we look at the statistics to see where the game was won and lost.
The first thing that is remarkably obvious is that the first half was terrible; for both teams.
Chelsea hit the cross-bar and Tim Krul made one integral save, but Chelsea weren’t on their game and Newcastle did what they deeded to do.
Alan Pardew set the Magpies up with two banks of four, a dangerous tactic in today’s game, with wide men, defensive triangles and congested midfields.
However, Pardew’s men went out knowing that what they had to do was get behind the ball, and make runs out wide.
In the first half Chelsea played seven successful crosses. Instead of looking for Fernando Torres, the Chelsea players seemed to prefer to take the ball inside and have an attempt at goal.
Torres was stranded, upfront and looked lost most of the game. Chelsea’s £50million man looked so wonderfully close to being his old self last week against Premier League favourites Manchester City, but as I said then one game doesn’t make you a world-class player.
Consistency is the key to winning championships, and Torres is the very model of an inconsistent football – which is such a shame, because when he’s good he’s the player you want to watch all day, every day.
His pace, and agility are just wonderful and his vision is much better than the majority of strikers that play in the league. It’s a real shame for the West Londoners that he couldn’t turn it on today.
For Newcastle the first half wasn’t much to speak of. The pre-match interview showed Pardew confident that his side weren’t to be easily beaten at St. James’ Park, and claimed Pardew, that if they could hold on during the first 60 minutes or so, they could push on and get the win.
In the second half Torres was the benefactor of much better service, but this time, instead of his positioning being weak, it was his touch.
One of those days for Torres. For me, Torres’ performance summed up the whole of the Chelsea performance.
It was all flare and no substance. Always lacking the killer instinct. Newcastle didn’t end up doing anything particularly special to keep Chelsea at bay.
They set up in the old fashioned 4-4-2, which was nice to see, and set about the second half with the same intensity that they had in the first.
Playing the ball well, moving into defensive positions when they didn’t have the ball, and moving into open positions when they were in possession.
A free kick, from a not particularly memorable foul, but what a free kick. Yohan Cabaye’s ball curled around the defence and Branislav Ivanovic seemed to just let Gouffran just get away from him.
It felt as though Newcastle were on borrowed time, as they sat back and invited the pressure from Chelsea. Defending in numbers and playing on the break, and for 21 minutes that’s exactly what they did.
On 88 minutes the substitutes Gabrielle Obertan and Vurnon Anite played an extremely clever one-two before Anite put a perfectly weighted ball in for fellow striker Loic Remy, who had been threatening to do something all day.
Taking a step back he put the ball onto the Chelsea post, and as luck would have it, the ball rebounded into the back of the net and the game was over.
It’s difficult to say what Chelsea got wrong, perhaps it was complacency, which we’ve seen from all of the Premier League big boys this season but is ultimately unacceptable.
Perhaps it was the thought of going top. Perhaps they were just unlucky (but after the win against City, you’ve got to say that it’s probably evens for the season. Some will blame it on David Luiz and the positioning he seemed to take up for Chelsea in the back four, but a look at the heat map and average positioning maps shows that he was almost as defensively minded as centre-back partner, and Captain, John Terry.
I’d like to think that the truth is Newcastle wanted it more, and Pardew got the tactic right. It’s worth pointing out that just before the Cabaye freekick that culminated in the Toon’s first goal, Cabaye took direct instructions from his manager.
Whatever the reason, and I’m sure everyone can come up with an extra factor, what’s clear is that this was a massive three points for Newcastle, and a huge opportunity missed from Jose Mourinho’s men.
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