Our write-ups of the weekend’s matches continue with a look at events at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Chelsea defeated a dogged Newcastle United side in yet another underwhelming match for owners of two of the Blues’ more popular Fantasy assets, though there was joy for the differential alternatives to this premium pair.
As ever, we’ll cover the main Fantasy talking points, key manager quotes and headline injury updates in the Scout Notes below.
Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United
- Goals: Pedro (£6.3m), Willian (£7.2m) | Ciaran Clark (£4.5m)
- Assists: David Luiz (£5.9m), Eden Hazard (£11.1m) | Matt Ritchie (£5.8m)
Another Gameweek and another Chelsea display that left owners of Marcos Alonso (£6.7m) and Eden Hazard with a lot of pondering to do.
Our reviews of the Blues’ performances in recent weeks have had a similar refrain, as Maurizio Sarri’s side have struggled to break down opponents who have sought to frustrate their attacking instincts (see Crystal Palace, Southampton and even Spurs in the Carabao Cup).
The visit of Newcastle United always threatened to be a tricky prospect on that front, given what happened between the two teams in Gameweek 3 and Rafael Benitez’s knack of organising his very limited Magpies side into a difficult-to-penetrate outfit.
An eighth-minute goal from Pedro (£6.3m) seemed to be exactly what Chelsea and owners of their FPL assets needed but any hopes that the Blues would cut loose and subsequently steamroller their visitors were dashed as Sarri’s troops produced yet another disjointed offensive display: it is now 12 Premier League matches since the Blues scored more than two goals in a game.
Sarri acknowledged his side’s struggles after full-time:
I’m really very happy with the result. I was happy with the performance at Tottenham, today we started well for ten minutes but after the goal, we thought it was easy and it wasn’t. We slept for 25 minutes and we were in trouble.
It was better in the second half but we need to improve in the mental reaction because after the first goal something happened. We stopped playing. It was very important to get three points and to score, and for now, that’s enough.
It’s very difficult to understand. In the last five matches, it was difficult to score. Today, we did it after eight or nine minutes so I think the team felt it was easy. We stopped playing and then, of course, we had problems. We were not able to react in the right way to the difficulties but today there were no difficulties as we scored after nine minutes.
For the first time, at Watford, we reacted well to their goal in the last minutes of the first half. We reacted very well at Tottenham. Today we only had to manage a positive situation, not a difficulty. I think we need to improve our mentality.
There was no Alvaro Morata (£8.4m) to blight Hazard in west London on Saturday evening but the Belgian was arguably the least effective of Chelsea’s front three, registering only one attempt on goal – which was blocked – and a single key pass in his 87-minute showing.
Hazard was deployed as a false nine with Pedro and Willian (£7.2m) either side of him but despite the Magpies’ spine looking particularly weak – three of their senior central midfielders being injured or unavailable – the Belgium international was unable to wreak the kind of havoc he has often caused against Newcastle down the years.
Hazard did give the United backline some problems whenever he did receive possession and his brilliant turn and scamper 40 yards out led to an assist for Willian’s curling winner on 56 minutes.
Ultimately, though, there wasn’t enough of Hazard on the ball. The Belgian had the fewest touches of any Chelsea outfield player in the opening 45 minutes and although he was more involved after the interval, his touch count was the lowest it has been at Stamford Bridge this season – with the exception of the counter-attacking win over Manchester City in December.
Sarri was positive about Hazard’s second-half display, though, and hinted that the set-up will continue, highlighting the defensive stability it brings:
Not in the first half but in the second half my feeling was that he enjoyed it. I wanted to see the solution with the three small players and in this moment it is a very good solution because we are not less dangerous in the offensive phase and in the defensive phase, we are more balanced.
In the last six matches, we have conceded only three goals, and one was a penalty, so in the moment in the defensive phase we are doing very well and one of the reasons, in my opinion, is that Eden is playing in that position.
For his characteristics, of course, he goes to the direction of the ball. We need to learn to attack spaces or to attack the box with other players. It was better on Saturday with the wingers in attacking spaces more than the box. We scored inside ten minutes by attacking the spaces behind the line with Pedro, and I remember very well one time at the beginning of the second half the same situation with Willian.
So it is better now, we need to improve in attacking the box when the ball is out of the box on the lateral side. It is impossible for Eden to stay in the box.
Sarri mentioned there about other players attacking the vacant spaces and Pedro and Willian certainly seemed to be the beneficiaries of the vacuums that Hazard was creating when dropping deep and searching for the ball.
The pair racked up seven shots between them and both got on the scoresheet, with Willian spurning two excellent one-on-one situations with Martin Dubravka and Pedro forcing the Slovakian into three stops – one a superb save from the Spaniard as he broke free in the Newcastle box just after half-time.
Chelsea and Hazard’s rhythm wasn’t helped by another poor performance by Jorginho (£4.7m), the midfield metronome who Sarri brought to Stamford Bridge in the summer with the intention of building a team around.
Sarri continues to overlook the impressive N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) for that “regista” role and hinted that the departure of Cesc Fabregas would force him into the transfer market, though mentioned that Ethan Ampadu (£4.4m) is a potential long-term option in that position:
After 20 minutes he [Jorginho] lost a lot of balls and it is unusual, so I think he was in trouble. Maybe he was tired, I don’t know, but if Fabregas was on the bench I think in the second half Fabregas would have been on the pitch instead of Jorginho
The player who plays in that position usually touches about 120 to 130 balls [a match] and so I think we need a specialist there.
The bench is not really very short. It is left short for only one position at the moment because Hudson-Odoi is improving, Hudson-Odoi in one or two months will be at the same level as the other players. I hope the same for Ampadu. Of course, playing as a central midfielder in our team is not easy, we need to try and try and try in training.
As for Alonso, this was more of the same: the third-highest number of touches in the final third among all players on show at Stamford Bridge and plenty of gallops into the Newcastle half but ultimately lacking in any serious threat going forward.
It’s now 12 Premier League matches since Alonso delivered an attacking return and while Hazard’s owners may consider the upcoming trips to Arsenal and Bournemouth something of a boon given the spaces likely to be gifted by those two unconvincing defences, the prospects of Alonso compensating his lack of goals or assists with a clean sheet in Gameweeks 23 and 24 look slimmer than in recent weeks.
An away match at Manchester City in Gameweek 26 will also fuel doubt among Alonso’s existing owners.
The Spanish full-back has always been a streaky player, of course: in Gameweeks 23-33 last season he didn’t register a single attacking return and recorded only two clean sheets in that period.
Alonso’s underlying numbers were still competitive during that stretch of games in 2017/18 (racking up the joint-highest number of shots among FPL defenders) and in Gameweek 12-22 of this season, he indeed ranks joint-third for attempts on goal among players in his position.
The Spain international’s creativity has tailed off, however, and with David Luiz (£5.9m) outscoring him from Gameweek 4 of this season onwards, there is even a viable alternative option in the Chelsea defence for those still wanting representation from the Blues’ backline.
Luiz produced a sublime through-ball for Pedro to score his goal on Saturday and the Brazilian walked off with maximum bonus to bolster his assist points.
Newcastle caused the Chelsea occasional problems in attack, with Salomon Rondon‘s (£5.7m) presence a particular threat: the Venezuelan nodded a late chance wide and it was from his flick-on that Ayoze Perez (£6.1m) wasted an excellent opportunity in the first half.
Ciaran Clark (£4.5m) nodded in a Matt Ritchie (£5.8m) corner to restore parity in the 39th minute and this was another spirited performance from the Magpies, showing that they can at least limit the damage that Fantasy assets from the title-chasing clubs can inflict on any given day: this was their fifth 2-1 defeat to a “big six” side in 2018/19.
Benitez said of his side’s display:
We conceded a goal we could avoid but after that, we were fighting for every ball. These players care, you could see that.
We were working so hard against a good team, and we were doing well. It’s a pity that a player with quality made the difference at the end.
We finished the first half – the last 20 minutes – being the better side. That, for me, is clear. In the second half, they started moving the ball with more pace.
You could see a lot of positives with the performance but no points. We knew that they would keep the ball and we had to maximise what we did when we got the ball. We had some chances on the counter but our final pass wasn’t there.
We will have chances to get points against teams who will be closer to us. We have to be better than three teams and if we play like we did today we will do it.
Florian Lejeune (£4.4m) made his first league start of the season and performed admirably as part of the Newcastle back three, with Benitez highlighting his ability in possession:
He is giving us something on the ball, and he helps us to play the way we want to play sometimes from the back.
He can play short or he can play long, and I am happy with him coming back because he is another player, and he can give us more competition.
Sean Longstaff (£4.5m) made his full league debut in central midfield in the absence of Ki Sung-yueng (£4.7m), Jonjo Shelvey (£5.3m) and Mohamed Diame (£4.8m), meanwhile.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic (Barkley 63′); Pedro (Hudson-Odoi 81′), Hazard (Giroud 87′), Willian.
Newcastle United XI (3-4-2-1): Dubravka; Lejeune, Lascelles, Clark; Yedlin (Manquillo 82′), Longstaff, Hayden, Ritchie; Atsu, Perez (Murphy 82′); Rondon.
Become a Member and access our data
Memberships for the 2018/19 campaign are now available for the price of just £10.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 130+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.