From Brentford Community Stadium – Romelu Lukaku looked pretty unhappy after being substituted in Chelsea’s narrow 1-0 win over Brentford on Saturday.
Ben Chilwell’s superb strike on the verge of half-time was all that separated the Blues and the Bees, with Thomas Tuchel’s visitors just about escaping with the three points.
But Lukaku failed to score for a fourth successive Premier League game, and more worryingly, the big Belgian barely got a sniff.
The revival of Timo Werner in a supporting role is looking a little promising, but for all of the menace and pace the Germany international brings, his strike partner is still finding himself isolated up top.
Lukaku’s frustrations at getting hooked seemed two-fold – obviously no striker wants to be subbed, but Chelsea’s game plan set him up to fail as well and that’s why he was deemed sub-par. There seemed to be little plan when on the ball and they seemed content to beat Brentford off of it, until the Bees threw the kitchen sink at them late in the game and Edouard Mendy came to the rescue.
Brentford, as much as they are exciting, also give up plenty of space, but Chelsea rarely took advantage of these situations even on the counter attack.
The champions of Europe were put to the sword by a newly promoted team who, for 75 minutes, created little of their own too, and yet they still gave their neighbours quite the scare – if Kepa Arrizabalaga was in goal instead of Mendy, Chelsea would probably not be top of the table tonight.
N’Golo Kante looked the most likely midfielder to create something for Chelsea (which is fine but there’s a cap on how good you can be if he’s carrying that load). Though Ruben Loftus-Cheek is starting to look like his old self again, he isn’t contributing much in that department yet. Mateo Kovacic was very ineffectual for the most part and the Blues sorely missed Jorginho dictating play.
Mason Mount and Kai Havertz both came on as second half substitutes but didn’t get into the game at all and you’d be forgiven for not realising the two even came on.
Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund side were famed for their pressing and fluidity in attack, but his Chelsea team could not be more the opposite – sturdy and gritty despite the riches they boast in attacking areas.
The German has, for the most part, managed to squeeze the most out of the players at his disposal. Andreas Christensen was commanding in the absence of Antonio Rudiger, and Malang Sarr stood tall on his surprise Premier League debut.
Maybe Chelsea are a club only built for this kind of football, a rare example of a team whose philosophy isn’t based around attacking. But Liverpool and Manchester City will rarely encounter the same problems up top as they do, and that might swing the Premier League title towards the north-west of England.
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