Four things are discovered as Chelsea loses to Man United: Kovacic influence, Koulibaly problem
Kalidou Koulibaly’s complete absence from the team to face Manchester United caught everyone off guard because Graham Potter’s press conference on Friday did not mention any recent ailments. Ben Chilwell received a decent rest against Brentford, so it was possible that he was merely being offered one as well. However, it soon became apparent that there was a problem.
Potter said before the match, “He simply felt his knee at the conclusion of the game against Brentford.” “It’s not horrible, but he shouldn’t play in this game right now,” the coach said.
Then Potter said: “A few players who recovered against Brentford are returning, and Koulibaly is no longer with us, so we can’t use him. The week was unavailable for Thiago to play. Therefore, choosing a team that can be competitive and, ideally, win the game, requires controlling the workload and the games.”
At Stamford Bridge, it was evident that Chelsea lacked a centre defensive option in Koulibaly. Cesar Azpilicueta and Marc Cucurella, who covered two positions, had little freedom for manoeuvring and little time to rest or rotate.
The Blues will be hoping for a speedy return from Koulibaly, but with Reece James and Wesley Fofana already out with injury during such a hectic time, his absence only serves to highlight how vulnerable Chelsea are.
Potter took 36 minutes to decide enough was enough of watching Chelsea’s midfield being too easily ignored, despite the apparent close attention Ruben Loftus-Cheek was giving Christian Eriksen. The Blues were hardly outclassed, but they did give up possession and chances more frequently than they would have wanted.
Cucurella was the player replaced because, after two consecutive starts, he was unable to finish the first period. Although it was a difficult choice, Potter was willing to act as he believed would be best for the game, even though it would put the summer signing’s morale at more risk.
Following the game, Potter explained his thinking, saying, “The sense in the game was that we were getting a little bit overrun in midfield and we needed an additional man in there to put a bit more pressure and stop them constructing their attacks, and thus making it harder for us to establish ours. All I can say is that’s how I felt. The boys responded excellently and contributed everything despite the fact that it wasn’t an easy choice.
The knee issue Kovacic is still dealing with
Why not start Kovacic given that he has been used in the first half of two straight games from the bench and has twice made an impact? Probably not what Chelsea supporters were wanting to hear was Graham Potter’s response that he was still dealing with a knee problem.
The 28-year-preseason old’s tour got off to a poor start because of a knee issue, which forced him to train alone in the USA. He eventually got hurt against Tottenham and missed the rest of the season before being gradually reintroduced to the starting lineup. It is not ideal to put a significant player so close to the edge.
On-target shooting is difficult.
It may come as no surprise that the Premier League match that resulted in the fewest goals scored in league history was a goalless affair, but Chelsea supporters may have dared to hope that they could defeat Manchester United for the first time in ten games had the game reached stoppage time.
Few may have been upset when Casemiro scored the late equaliser because Jorginho’s penalty was the Blues’ first effort on goal, but that fact may have been telling. In their matchup with Brentford, Chelsea also had few opportunities to score, and Thomas Tuchel’s team frequently struggled with Brentford’s ability to put pressure on the goalie.
Since the appointment of Potter as their new head coach, Potter’s team has gone eight games without a loss, yet this merely goes to show that not all problems can be fixed quickly.
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