Chelsea 2 - West Bromwich Albion 5
What a performance! What a result! Have we ever scored five higher quality goals in a single game? Where did it come from?
Fair to say not many of us thought this was on the cards today. I thought it was interesting that Allardyce went with the 5-4-1approach that Bilic had been using and it worked from the off - the difference probably being the quality of Yokusulu.
We were decent to begin with, matching Chelsea, pressing and winning the ball high and keeping them away from dangerous areas. They might’ve gone to ten men sooner and this is the annoying thing - I don’t think it was a red in the same way I don’t think Ajayi’s was but if one is the other most certainly is. Sadly the free kick came to nothing.
Our good work was undone when SJ made a decent tip onto the post from a similar free kick but we didn’t react quick enough and they got a tap in.
A few minutes later and Silva was off for a crazy late challenge on Okay.
Next minute O’Shea is injured and I thought Invanovic was a terrible call - one down, loads of game left, I’d have got Robinson on straight away.
Ivanovic managed to prevent a 1 on 1 in his only sprint but with no warm up he pulled something and Peltier began to unstrip.
I’d like to think a collective Uri Geller style energy of collective Albion fans watching and moaning managed to make Allardyce gamble and change his decision and go for Robinson and the switch to 4-2-3-1.
We were transformed and although there was fortune in Pereira getting on the end of an SJ (straight!) punt there was none such about his lobbed finish. A few minutes later and a pattern that would set the tone of the match put us into the lead.
The combination of Diagne’s strength and running, Robinson’s spatial awareness, ability to pick up pockets and composure on the ball, Phillips at his best and Pereira’s magic quality turned the game on its head with them all combining for a great goal.
After half time we were far from solid, allowing the game to be open but when we broke we were outstanding and as well as our front four, our fullbacks showed unbelievable desire to support attacks but more importantly that quality to make the right decisions when they got forward. 2 brilliant team goals came from that combination, Furlong picking out Robinson to volley home spectacularly and then Townsend galloping the length of the pitch to run onto a sublime Robinson pass, back heel it to Pereira who picked out Diagne to hammer home.
Chelsea pushed hard and I’d have probably got Livermore on for Pereira to see it out. They missed decent chances as well as scoring a goal before Diagne, Robinson and Pereira combined again for a lovely goal to seal the points.
Too little too late? Almost certainly but we were given a famous victory that we’ll talk about for years. A real conundrum for Allardyce now in that we have to win games and, for all of Gallagher’s honest endeavour, we had so much more penetration with Pereira central and Robinson on the pitch. Maybe that’s the gamble in every game?
It’s still too late but let’s have a go like this every match and enjoy it. This was one that will stay with me forever.
There is no finer sight in football or in life than marauding green and yellow shirts, worn by players of all skin tones, dazzling their opponents with speed, skill, movement and panache, winning in style. It’s eternal and glorious when it happens.
Dead Cat Boing
Scribes in the local press had been running the rule over which midfield player would come in to replace Gallagher, whose parent club wouldn't sanction him playing against them: Allardyce rose above the debate and replaced him with a fifth defender.
In countering Big Sam's 541 designed to draw Chelsea on, Tuchel countered with three centre-backs in an attempt to contain the lone Albion striker, although it might also have been seen as a way to get spare players in the least congested area.
Whatever the tactical machinations, Chelsea, urged on by a decent number of supporters at the Inglewood who initially trooped into the back bar to watch the first fifteen minutes whilst the big screen showed the last quarter of the Eagles vs Port game, had a lot of the ball whilst Albion looked to press. I think I heard one stat suggest that the home side were having 75% possession, though it could have been even more but for some of the worst passing I have seen in ages. Can't say that I have seen what all the fuss over Tiago Silva has been about for a few seasons now and he was probably the most guilty, although misplaced passes would turn out to be the most petty of his crimes.
Despite not having much of the ball, Albion did seem capable of doing something with it and even had the first shot on target when Pereira, still not considered good enough to play in the centre came in off the right wing to hit a left-footed shot from outside the box with five minutes gone.
A couple of minutes later, Pereira was yet again Albion's attacking threat, though in being pulled back by Silva as he broke into the box, the TV commentary team suggested that the Chelsea's Brazilian might have seen Red for denying Albion's Brazilian a goal-scoring opportunity. As it was, Silva only got a Yellow and Pereira's second goal-scoring opportunity was denied by the wall.
When Chelsea did have the ball, Albion seemed content give Kovacic as much space as he wanted, albeit within an otherwise congested midfield, however in one of the melee's O'Shea got caught on the ankle and was replaced by ex-Chelsea man Ivanovic. To call it a like-for-like swap would be to flatter the Serbian, now long past the sell-by date at this level, and, whilst he couldn't be faulted for the opening goal, Johnstone being so unlucky in deflecting a goal-bound free-kick onto the post only to see Pulisic quicker to react to the rebound, asking him to run at pace for twenty yards to cover yet another Chelsea runner proved too much and so after a fifteen minute cameo, he limped off from what was hopefully his swansong appearance in Albion shirt, given how little all his supposed experience has brought to the club, along with giving Bilic an excuse to change the tactics of the squad he'd been able to continue with, right at the start of the season.
Bit of a problem for Big Sam though, in that he had run out of centre-backs, and so back to two centrally he was forced to go, with Robinson the man to come on but more importantly, Pereira being being freed-up to play in the centre.
Somewhat ironically, it would be a holding midfield player, Yokuslu, who could be said to have turned the game, turning up on the edge of the box and drawing a two-feet-off-the-ground lunge from Silva. Not clear if it was a second Yellow or a straight Red though, though if discussions with one of the Chelsea fans after the game are an indication of anything, perhaps his exit was yet another swansong cameo by a "past great".
As time allowed for stoppages began, a long punt from Johnstone that, for once, didn't veer towards the touchline, saw three Albion players coming back onside as Chelsea's backline pushed up, however, Pereira broke out of the central congestion into space and showed all the class that his constant detractors forget when lauding the journeymen keeping him out of position and, even occasionally, out of the side, and lobbed the oncoming keeper from the edge of the box. Class tells: and Pereira has it in spades you muppets!
One minute later, and remember, we're still in first-half stoppage time, Phillips, a right winger actually playing on the right wing, cut inside and saw a shot hit the woodwork, and there was even more to come, as Pereira made space on the edge of the box before passing the ball between two of the three defenders between him and the goal and into the corner of the net.
Never has my Crancher Creations Brazil shirt seemed more Brazilian!
Even the introduction of Sam Johnstone's England team-mate Mason Mount didn't really give Chelsea much more ball retention than they'd managed in the first half, and their attempts to play it out from the back always looked likely to see them cough up the ball in dangerous areas. Having said that, Alonso, often looking to be Chelsea's biggest threat, should have done better ten minutes in but saw his shot hit Ajayi and ricochet away from the goal.
Albion's third, fifteen minutes into the half, looked like a goal we might have scored in our 4231-pomp last season, with Pereira sending Furlong off down the right but, instead of the overlapping full-back putting a cross into a mass of bodies, he pulls it back to the space on the edge of the box and finds Robinson arriving late and hammering it into the roof of the net: Go-a-la-to!
Five minutes later and now it's champagne football time after a Townsend back-heel finds Pereira in the playmaker role and, what do you know, but the Brazilian has the composure to look up and see that he can simply play a pass into the path of Diagne, and allow the striker time to produce a composed finish. Simple game, Saint, simple game.
Three goals to the good with twenty to play then: surely just a matter of seeing the game out? Well, not quite. Much to the delight of the Chelsea fans in front of the big screen, within two minutes Mount reduces the deficit to two goals, but it only serves to wake Albion up to the task at hand and they finally seem to exert some control.
Have to say that I didn't even notice Livermore's introduction into the willing runner downer of the clock role, as I might have nipped to the loo, but I got back in time to see Pereira, yes that man again, playing in Robinson, who, despite having his arm in an offside position when starting his run, saw his delightful chip over Mendy allowed to stand, by the VAR.
So, what we can we take away from this game? Well, let's get the bad bits out of the way first. Despite the scoreline, Maitland-Niles, akin to Ivanovic, clearly isn't the answer to whatever the question that brought him to us was. Got caught in possession too many times when a simple pass was on and defensively, seems to go running after the ball, leaving the player he appears to be marking, which usually meant Chelsea's dangerman Kovacic, free, way too often. I appreciate that Allardyce side-stepped the "who replaces Gallagher in centre-mid" question, by going five at the back but I don't see AMN as the more attacking of a holding pair in the two in a 4231. I'd like like to see if Sayers might even regain the confidence that seems to have been drained out him, in there, alongside Okay. I expect to be disappointed,
But finally, talk of 4231 brings us back to the good bits. Last season, at times, we looked superb, playing a 4231 with Pereira, the best player at the club, right at the heart of things, wide players playing on their right sides, and overlapping full-backs doing both parts of their job well, and so should it really come as much of a surprise to see that when forced, and let's not forget that it WAS forced upon Allardyce, into ditching the same three centre-back style that Bilic also incomprehensibly tried to bolt onto the squad that had just about been kept together, Albion once again looked as Brazilian as my Brazil shirt? I think not!
All too little, too late I fear, but if it makes anyone wonder why Bilic simply didn't go with the style that got the squad that got us up, until we were already chasing every club bar SheffU, then maybe it'll be a lesson learned. What was it that I used to post when one-dimensional managers claimed they needed a brand new team brought for them? Oh yeah: evolution, not revolution. Trouble is, our evolution has probably witnessed its mass extinction event: dinosaurs and all!
All text, pictures and graphics are copyright of BOING unless otherwise stated