Chelsea, Morata misfire in entertaining 0-0 draw vs. 10-man Leicester

Chelsea, Morata misfire in entertaining 0-0 draw vs. 10-man Leicester
From ESPN - January 13, 2018

LONDON -- Three points from Chelsea's 0-0 draw with Leicester at Stamford Bridge.

1. Chelsea draw again

It has not been a happy 2018 for Chelsea thus far: a draw with Arsenal, a draw with Norwich, another draw with Arsenal and now another draw, at home to a Leicester City side that played with 10 men for the final 20 minutes after left-back Ben Chilwell's dismissal. It's a poor run of results for the defending Premier League champions, who can still rely upon excellent defensive organisation but look desperately short of attacking inspiration.

That said, even Chelsea's defending was not particularly impressive here. Leicester were the better side and created more opportunities, excelling in the first half before dropping much deeper after the break. Jamie Vardy was brighter than Alvaro Morata, Riyad Mahrez more dangerous than Eden Hazard.

For that, Claude Puel must take a large slice of the credit in this battle of the two most recent Premier League champions. Leicester were tactically excellent, coping well with their numerical disadvantage in midfield by dropping Shinji Okazaki in to help and pressing Chelsea's build-up play with confidence, seemingly having wised up to the passing patterns of their centre-backs.

In truth, Chelsea should feel lucky to have taken a point rather than disappointment at having dropped two. The one consolation is that Chelsea's upcoming Premier League fixtures (Brighton, Bournemouth, Watford and West Brom) are hardly daunting, but the boos around Stamford Bridge at full-time underlined the home fans' current frustrations.

2. Chelsea's system still fails to yield a victory

Whereas Chelsea stormed to the title last season after Antonio Conte's switch to a three-man defence, his default formation this time around has been the 3-5-2. There were logical reasons for the change: get Hazard closer to goal and incorporate Cesc Fabregas into the side without losing midfield balance. In matches like this, however, one wonders whether the extra midfielder is serving much purpose.

Especially, it must be said, when that extra midfielder is Tiemoue Bakayoko. He was not necessarily Chelsea's worst performer on Saturday, but nevertheless, he's contributed relatively little since his switch from Monaco last summer. Bakayoko is certainly a box-to-box midfielder, but his ability when he reaches either box is highly questionable. Besides, with Leicester's Okazaki playing a typically energetic role and dropping back onto his old teammate N'Golo Kante to ensure Leicester were not overrun, Chelsea did not even have the numerical advantage in midfield that Conte may have expected.

With just two forwards, Chelsea often seem rather predictable in the final third. Morata and Hazard have a good relationship and attempted to combine with some slick one-twos here, but so rarely is there a third man contributing to attacking moves. Their first half performance was crying out for Pedro Rodriguez, who remains excellent at making those late, unseen bursts from the flank into scoring positions while also providing much needed width.

The 3-5-2 asks a lot from Chelsea's wing-backs, too. The beauty of the 3-4-3 was that the wide players would move inside, opening up both flank for Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses to flood. Here, with the opposition full-backs having no responsibility for Hazard, they could focus their attention on stopping Chelsea's wing-backs. We no longer see Chelsea overloading the opposition defence.


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