MARTIN KEOWN TALKS TACTICS: I see signs of Chelsea gelling with Conor Gallagher as a No 10… the Blues have a long way to go, but the makings of a good team are forming
- Chelsea have had a difficult tenure under Todd Boehly but are slowly improving
- They will take on Manchester City on Sunday, a team where they want to soon be
- Why we should get excited about Cole Palmer – Listen here to It’s All Coming Up
It is ominous that Manchester City are already sitting at the Premier League summit, having waited until last season’s run-in to reclaim the position they see as their rightful territory.
City are where Sunday’s opponents Chelsea desperately want to be. Instead, all they have to show for Todd Boehly’s tenure is a £1billion bill on player purchases, four different managers and zero sign of being involved in this season’s title race.
Yet having studied Chelsea this week, I see the makings of a good team forming under Mauricio Pochettino, despite this club’s fall from grace. They haven’t had the best luck with injuries – six currently sidelined with £58million Romeo Lavia still awaiting his debut – but the XI that beat Tottenham on Monday is stacked with talent.
With some fine-tuning, I see no reason why they cannot thrive together. It starts with the evergreen Thiago Silva at the back, still their best player in my eyes at 39. He is defying Father Time, exuding calmness and building attacks from the back. Both midfielders in front of him, Moises Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez, signed for a combined £221.8m, are 22 and can form a formidable pairing over time with the protection they provide.
Conor Gallagher is playing in his rightful position at No 10 – precisely where he flourished on loan at Crystal Palace – particularly as Pochettino likes to play a very high pressing game.
Chelsea are starting to show signs of being a good team under Mauricio Pochettino this season after a slow start
Enzo Fernandez (left) and Moises Caicedo (right) could form a solid midfield partnership for a number of years for Chelsea
Midfielder Conor Gallagher has been thriving at No 10 for the Blues in Pochettino’s high-pressing game
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Gallagher relentlessly runs from midfield to join the front three of Cole Palmer, Nicolas Jackson and Raheem Sterling in closing down opposition defenders. He does that so well that nobody in the Premier League has regained possession in the final third more than him this season.
Palmer has settled quicker than any of Chelsea’s other signings since leaving City. He is polished in his passing and suits being a left-footer on the right, moving into central areas so he can play the through-balls into Jackson and Sterling.
Jackson and Sterling struggled with the timing of their runs against Tottenham but both can be devastating when they get it right. In the end, that was how Jackson secured his confidence-boosting hat-trick.
I believe Sterling is much more dangerous when running without the ball than with it. Under Pep Guardiola at City, he was effective when playing on the left and making those give-and-go runs into the space behind the opponents’ back line. Mohammed Salah, on 147, is the only current Premier League player with more goals than Sterling’s 118.
He is still only 28 years old and, like Palmer, will be fired up to face his old club on Sunday. Having lost John Stones to injury, City will hope Manuel Akanji passes his late fitness test. Akanji is a quick and mobile defender who rarely gets beaten for pace and if Chelsea target their opponents on the counter, he and Kyle Walker can work together to negate Sterling and Jackson’s bursts in behind.
Pochettino is one of the Premier League’s more patient managers. He doesn’t like to chop and change his team, instead trusting a core group to come good. At Chelsea, he has the talented individuals at his disposal.
Now they need to continue to gel. It will not be easy against City. It never is. But if Chelsea’s fans are to believe that win over Tottenham was a true turning point in their season, there is no better game to follow that up than by beating the formidable table toppers City.
Pochettino is one of the league’s more patient managers but will face a major test against champions City
IT’S ALL KICKING OFF!
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