Chelsea 3-0 Aston Villa – Five Key Takeaways – Talk Chelsea


The below were my five key takeaways from our hard-fought 3-0 win against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge in match week 4 of the Premier League on 12 September 2021.

1. Lukaku and Kovacic lead the Blues to victory

It was the long-awaited return of Romelu Lukaku at Stamford Bridge and he did not disappoint! In both halves, ‘big Rom’ scored two sensational goals and ensured that his second coming at the Bridge would be fondly remembered by Blues fans present and worldwide.

While the prolific Belgian did not many have many opportunities to impose himself as he normally would due to Aston Villa’s disruptive presence in the midfield, which interfered with the Blues’ ability to play with their normal rhythm and fluidity, he stepped up when it mattered.

His first goal was something Chelsea fans have been asking for in their striker since the days of Diego Costa. Having been released via a sumptuous long-range on the ground through ball by Mateo Kovacic, Romelu was shaping up to strike with his left, but expertly cut the ball back to his right and calmy steered the ball beyond Villains fill-in keeper Jed Steer.

His second, which came late in second half stoppage time, involved another strength of his – power. Following a lovely pass from substitute Cesar Azpilicueta, Romelu decided to use his lethal left foot to unleash a rocket into the top corner that sent the Blues fans into raptures.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

While Lukaku stole the headlines with his superbly taken brace, special praise should be given to Chelsea’s Croatian sensation Mateo Kovacic. As mentioned, aside from assisting our opener with a glorious through ball, he also scored Chelsea’s second as his anticipation and determination to get to Mings’ soft back pass ahead of the onrushing Steer and to lift it beyond him into the far corner first time was sublime.

In addition to his direct goal contributions, Kovacic was highly influential throughout in both defence and attack. According to Squawka, he had the most touches (89), most ball recoveries (9) and had the most accurate passes (61). He also won 5 duels and made 2 tackles and clearances.

All in all, both Lukaku and Kovacic were instrumental for the Blues in ensuring that they would finish the day in equal first with Manchester United.

2. Mendy massive as defence remains resolute

Although the Blues won 3-0 in the end, the score did not reflect the tight and tense battled that took place at Stamford Bridge. Despite going 1-0 up in the early stages of the match, it was the Villains who were asking lots of questions and looked the likelier of the two teams to score the game’s next goal.

At the heart of preventing Villa from equalising was Blues giant Edouard Mendy. The shot-stopper made a several acrobatic saves and showed real calmness to not only preserve Chelsea’s lead, but also prevent them from going behind. Mendy finished the game with 6 saves, the same as he did against Liverpool. Amazingly he is yet to concede from open play (only goal was Salah’s penalty).

Special praise should also be given to the returning Brazilian veteran Thiago Silva as he made a crucial block in the first half to keep the Villains from drawing level.

If the adage ‘defence wins titles’ proves to be a truism, this could be the kind of match that Tuchel will reflect back on as season defining as the Blues make their quest for the Premier League title.

3. Saúl endured a shaky debut 

With Tuchel confirming Kante’s absence before the match, much of the pre-match talk surrounded who would then be the starting midfield for the Blues against Villa given the champion French star’s absence.

While many, including this author, had tipped the tried and tested ‘Jovacic’ (Jorginho and Kovacic) pivot to get the nod for this clash, Tuchel elected to bring in Blues deadline day loanee Saúl Niguez to partner Kovacic.

Saul Chelsea Debut

Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

Unfortunately for the Spanish star (and Blues fans) this was not a debut to remember. Saúl gave away possession on multiple occasions which led to dangerous opportunities for the Villains and generally looked off the pace during his first half cameo. That said, given this was his first taste of the notoriously high-octane Premier League, it is perhaps no genuine surprise to see Saúl struggle to hit the ground running.

One suspects this would be a valuable lesson for the experienced Spaniard in realising that his space and time on the ball is limited and therefore this new-found knowledge should benefit both Chelsea and himself as the season progresses.

4. Tuchel’s strategic rotations pays off

When Chelsea’s line-up was released, there were many intriguing and noticeable changes to the side. While some changes were injury or suspension induced, others were tactical in nature.

For instance, the decision to bring in the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Trevoh Chalobah, and Thiago Silva (in addition to Saúl) saw a different type of Chelsea performance. This Chelsea side did not seem to possess the same type of chemistry, understanding, control and cohesiveness that Blues fans witnessed in the first 3 games of the season.

As I noted in my monthly key themes piece, I believe this substantial change in personnel was at least partially attributed to Tuchel thinking ahead of the heavily-congested fixture list for the remainder of September and early October. In other words, this strategic rotation was thought to help safeguard the risk of injury and fatigue as the games start to come every few days over the next few weeks before the next international break.

At the end of the day, the raft of changes to the line-up worked as intended as several first team regulars either enjoyed a full game off or a large portion of it – most notably Mason Mount, Andreas Christensen, Jorginho, Cesar Azpilicueta.

5. Result > Performance 

It’s often said that the most important stat is the end result. After a less-than-convincing performance at times from Tuchel’s men, securing not just an important victory, but by scoring three goals and keeping a clean sheet against a spirited Villains in the process was very impressive.

According to ESPN FC, the Blues narrowly edged possession 53% to 47% but conceded more attempts (18 to 12) and shots on goal (6 to 4). While Chelsea were more efficient with their chances, which has been a criticism of them in the past, they were not as controlling and dominant as Blues sides under Tuchel have become.

Starting with Zenit in the Champions League, I expect the Blues will re-assert their natural style of play and maintain larger portions of the ball in attacking areas and create more opportunities for the likes of the lethal Lukaku to add to his growing goal tally. Core to this will be bringing back in the first team team regulars in Mason Mount, Jorginho, and hopefully Kante should he be fit and ready to play.

Final Comments 

A win against any Premier League side should be cherished. While Villa were missing the likes of Buendia and Martinez in goal, the Blues too were without N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic through injury, and also Reece James who was serving a suspension.

Regardless of who was and wasn’t available, this was a tough battle with both sides looking to genuinely go out there and win the game which made it a fascinating clash to watch.

In the end, Chelsea’s defence remained robust and resolute (particularly Ed ‘Spider’ Mendy between the sticks) and were the more clinical of the two sides in front of goal. Tuchel will be fully aware that the performance itself was not up to the usual standards he and us fans have come to expect, but, will take great confidence and satisfaction that despite that, they walked away with a 3-0 win against a very difficult opponent.

Perhaps even greater than the 3 points was that several key stars were rested, and no one got injured or suspended! We should celebrate this one over the next day or so but then quickly prepare for the next one against Zenit.

Come on you Blues!

Twitter: @RJ_Goodthings

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