CHELSEA 2-0 BURNLEY
- Goals: Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.6m), Marcos Alonso (£5.6m)
- Assists: Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.7m), Christian Pulisic (£8.2m)
- Bonus: Azpilicueta x3, Alonso x2, Thiago Silva (£5.6m) x1
Marcos Alonso (£5.6m) and Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.6m) reminded new head coach Thomas Tuchel that Chelsea aren’t just a group of exciting young talents, with both making Fantasy Premier League managers feel nostalgic by scoring in a comfortable 2-0 win against Burnley.
HELLO MARCOS, MY OLD FRIEND
Pre-match, Alonso stole the headlines by emerging from the wilderness to replace Ben Chilwell (£6.1m) at left wing-back. Chilwell’s many owners could only look on in envy as Alonso smashed home a powerful finish after an 84th-minute exchange with Christian Pulisic (£8.2m), who found the Spaniard on the edge of the six-yard box.
Following a bright Burnley start, the Chelsea clean sheet was never really in doubt. However, with Chilwell, Kurt Zouma (£5.6m) and Reece James (£5.1m) benched, only a small minority of FPL managers will have taken advantage of their third shut-out from four matches.
Chilwell may not be reduced to bit-part player status just yet, however, with Tuchel saying after full-time:
We had a reason. It wasn’t that we were unhappy with Chilly (Chilwell), absolutely not. We opted for a bit more size for defending set-pieces, and I know from the time of Antonio Conte that Marcos is used to playing this role. He has good timing for arriving in the box.
Perhaps the most intriguing route into the Blues’ backline ahead of fixtures against Sheffield United (a) and Newcastle United (h) is the cheap Antonio Rudiger (£4.5m), another who is experiencing a rebirth.
The German has taken Zouma’s place in five of the last six matches and seems to be a Tuchel favourite. With Chelsea’s popular defensive assets now in and out of the side, Rudiger provides an affordable option with a goal threat.
Yet it may still be too early to determine what Tuchel’s favoured formation and starting XI is, with the new boss saying:
If we manage to find a starting XI that can guarantee to win us 20 in a row, we will not change! It’s very unlikely this will happen and we need everybody. Right now every player has every right to start for us because I’m very happy with the quality, intensity and devotion in training. It’s super hard selections, or maybe super easy because I give everybody the chance to show up.
Tuchel’s two matches in the Stamford Bridge dugout have involved three centre-backs and two very attacking wing-backs. With Azpilicueta playing centrally, this should have been good news for James – but Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.7m) was again outstanding in that right-sided role.
His early shot was blazed over the bar, with two later contributions deflected onto the post by Burnley defenders. Minutes before half-time, the 20-year-old got the points he deserved by assisting the opening goal. A free-flowing counter-attack saw Mason Mount (£6.8m) find Hudson-Odoi, who cut inside before slipping the ball through to goalscorer Azpilicueta.
Before being replaced by James, he had time to put an easy shot on a plate for half-time substitute Pulisic but the American fired wide.
As for favoured players, Tuchel rotated his front three after the midweek 0-0 draw with Wolves. Mount, Tammy Abraham (£7.2m) and Timo Werner (£9.2m) played on this occasion, with Hakim Ziyech (£8.1m), Kai Havertz (£8.2m) and Olivier Giroud (£6.7m) doing so previously.
Putting this uncertainty alongside the wing-back swaps, it would be risky to choose any Chelsea assets right now, especially in attack. Ziyech didn’t even make the squad this time, with £70m signing Havertz limited to a cameo.
Simply put, competition is fierce and nobody is bringing in the points to justify selection. One of Tuchel’s main objectives must be to get Havertz and Werner firing, with both struggling since their summer moves.
Three of Havertz’s four attacking returns occurred in the Gameweek 3-5 period. All four Werner league goals came between matches five and eight, with the forward visibly lacking confidence.
He found himself in the right position on numerous occasions but a 15th-minute shot was too easy for Nick Pope (£5.4m) to save, as was a 52nd-minute header. Midway through the first half, a cross was pulled back to Werner on the penalty spot and he couldn’t even connect properly. Whilst it’s a positive that he’s getting these chances, he can’t reasonably be transferred in until his luck changes.
Chelsea have no postponed matches to be rearranged and, assuming they defeat Barnsley in the FA Cup, will likely find themselves with no fixture in Gameweek 29 and a difficult double in 26 against Manchester United (h) and Liverpool (a).
ONE SHOT OR ONE OPPORTUNITY
Chelsea were dominant – particularly in the second half – which was underscored by the goal-shy Burnley having just one shot during the entire 90 minutes.
The Clarets’ head coach, Sean Dyche, admitted his side were second best:
I’ve no complaints because the best side won. In the first half, I thought we contained the game pretty well and kept them to a pretty slow tempo. But in the second half, they were by far the better sides and that happens. They brought a better tempo to their passing and their pressing and we couldn’t get a foothold at all. All credit to them; it was top players doing what top players do to win a game.
Burnley’s Gameweek 17 meeting with Fulham (h) needs to be scheduled and most eyes will be on their defensive assets for the Brighton (h), Crystal Palace (a) and West Brom (h) run of fixtures that follows Man City (h) in midweek.
The Clarets arrived in west London high on confidence after beating Aston Villa 3-2 and ending Liverpool’s 68-game unbeaten Premier League home run. With 1-0 away wins at Arsenal and Liverpool, they hoped to claim another scalp here but barely threatened Chelsea’s goal after an encouraging first half hour.
Already entering the weekend with the league’s second-lowest goals (13), expected goals (17.17) and goal attempts (173) tallies, seeing striker Chris Wood (£6.2m) limp off after receiving treatment will not be good for their attacking capabilities.
Yet they have collected four clean sheets from eight matches, largely due to established FPL titan Pope. After Gameweek 20, he was the game’s top-scoring goalkeeper. His 17 bonus points were by far the most in his position and, already ranked third for saves, Pope made another seven here.
His price is high but he offers more than the defence in front of him. Ben Mee (£4.9m) may have headed two goals from five matches but isn’t much cheaper, while budget-friendly options like Charlie Taylor (£4.5m) and Matt Lowton (£4.4m) are either injured or offer no attacking threat whatsoever.
Chelsea XI (3-4-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Rudiger; Hudson-Odoi (James 73’), Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount (Havertz 80’), Werner, Abraham (Pulisic 46’).
Burnley XI (4-4-2): Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Pieters; Brady (Mumbongo 76’), Westwood, Cork, McNeil; Wood (Gudmundsson 62’), Vydra (Rodriguez 57’).
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