Our final Scout Notes article of Gameweek 4 reflects on an eventful game at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea’s defence once again the focus of our attention.
Chelsea 2-2 Sheffield United
- Goals: Tammy Abraham (£7.2m) x2 | Callum Robinson (£5.3m), Kurt Zouma (£4.9m) own-goal
- Assists: Christian Pulisic (£7.5m), Jorginho (£5.0m) | Enda Stevens (£5.0m), Robinson
- Bonus: Abraham – 3, Jorginho – 2, Stevens, Robinson – 1
Last week we wrote an article on Emerson Palmieri (£5.5m), praising the left-back’s attacking threat but also expressing concern about Chelsea’s defensive fragility.
The Blues’ first three games were against attack-minded teams in the shape of Manchester United, Leicester City and Norwich City, so the visit of Sheffield United – who are ranked bottom or joint-bottom for shots in the box and efforts on target this season – was a good test to see if Frank Lampard’s side could register a shut-out against a less-offensive team ahead of their favourable fixture run from Gameweek 7 onwards.
The usual frailties were apparent again, though, with another second-half capitulation costing the Blues points.
Six of the nine goals Chelsea have conceded this season have come after the break, while only Norwich have shipped more Premier League goals in 2019/20.
Callum Robinson (£5.3m) had already missed an excellent headed chance by the time he tucked away a cross from Enda Stevens (£5.0m) and it was the ‘out of position’ FPL midfielder, starting his fourth successive game up front for the Blades, who provided the teasing delivery that Kurt Zouma (£4.9m) sliced past his own goalkeeper late in the game.
Speaking after the game, Lampard said:
It’s not defence, it is conceding as a team. The lack of concentration and mistakes for the goals are moments, you defend as a team as much as attack as a team.
We conceded because you switch off in a game that should be comfortably seen off at 2-0. That is no disrespect to Sheffield United, 2-0 is not the end of the story. I was clear with the players on that at half-time, this can either be 3-0 and nice, or a potential 2-2.
Disappointing factor is the first goal more than anything, because it allowed it but we only have ourselves to look at as a group and not individually.
Lampard gave Fikayo Tomori (£4.5m) his first league start in a Chelsea shirt and the former Derby County boss was later asked if he was concerned about Chelsea’s previous defensive pairing of Zouma and Andreas Christensen (£5.0m) at centre-half, replying:
No, I wouldn’t say I was worried about it. I am trying to work all over the team to get the right combinations. Rudiger is fit after the international break, gives me another choice. We can isolate goals and talk about centre-backs or whatever, it’s not, it’s the team. When we score goals, sometimes it’s because of the centre-back playing the ball quickly. I am not relating the centre-back issue. I trust the four centre-backs I have completely, we are just in a moment where obviously we need to stop conceding goals.
I think Tomori played very well for me last year and training at a very high level. There is competition at centre-back, he deserved to play and I thought he played well. It was just a choice.
Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) again struggled at right-back and both of the goals came from crosses on his side.
Chelsea at least have reinforcements in the shape of Reece James (£5.0m), Antonio Rudiger (£6.0m) and N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) who will be fit soon, although the Blues’ defensive problems seem to run deeper than merely unavailable personnel right now.
While Jorginho (£5.0m) and Mateo Kovacic (£5.5m) impressed in the double-pivot, there was less joy for the more popular Chelsea midfield assets further forward.
Christian Pulisic (£7.5m), Mason Mount (£6.4m) and Ross Barkley (£5.8m) created one chance between them, with Mount nullified on the Chelsea left by the resolute Sheffield United backline and Barkley delivering one of the frustrating performances that he has sadly become synonymous with.
Tammy Abraham (£7.2m) at least carried on where he left off at Carrow Road, showing an opportunistic streak to first pounce on a fumble by Dean Henderson (£4.5m) and then take advantage of a mix-up between Jack O’Connell (£4.5m) and John Egan (£4.5m) to double Chelsea’s lead.
Henderson denied Abraham a hat-trick with a superb save after the break.
Lampard said of his young striker:
I’m delighted with Tammy. He has a really great attitude in training, a desire to score goals and his all-round game was really good as well. Myself and the staff are working closely with him on little bits of his game where I think he can be even better and he’s been very receptive to that.
After successive 13-point hauls, the Chelsea forward is the most-bought player of Gameweek 5 at the time of writing.
Cynics may say that all four of his goals have come against defences that played in the Championship last season but a ‘flat-track bully’ is arguably what we Fantasy managers want, particularly if targeting the more winnable fixtures – of which Chelsea have several from Gameweek 7 onwards.
While Norwich and Villa languish in the bottom three, Sheffield United are now up to eighth.
They are unquestionably the more secure of the three promoted clubs from a defensive perspective and have conceded fewer big chances, shots in the box and efforts on target than Daniel Farke and Dean Smith’s sides this season.
There will be frustration, indeed, that it was two uncharacteristic individual errors, rather than anything Chelsea created, that saw the Blades fall 2-0 down.
Chris Wilder said after full-time:
I thought we deserved it but I was disappointed with their goals. We could have done better on both. Take nothing away from the boys. How can you? Still, we know we should have kept them out.
There was nothing wrong with our shape to begin with. But we stood off them a bit and then gave some silly things away. But the boys, all of them, dug in and dug it out. And that’s what being at this level is all about.
Oli McBurnie (£5.9m) for David McGoldrick (£5.5m) was Wilder’s only change for this match, although the summer signing from Swansea didn’t have much of an impact and failed to have a single shot in a 63-minute showing.
Sheffield United sit second-bottom of our Season Ticker over the next ten Gameweeks and interest may be limited in their FPL players over this run – with the exception of the benchable John Lundstram (£4.2m), of course.
On the evidence of what we have seen so far this season, however, Fantasy managers can expect the Blades to be no pushovers when our other attacking assets come up against Wilder’s troops.
Chelsea XI (4-2-3-1): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Tomori, Zouma, Emerson; Kovacic (Batshuayi 83′), Jorginho; Pulisic, Barkley (Willian 60′), Mount; Abraham (Gilmour 83′).
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham (Osborn 84′), Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Freeman (Mousset 79′), Stevens; McBurnie (McGoldrick 63′), Robinson.
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