Chelsea opened up a massive 7-point lead at the top of the table, as they beat Aston Villa 2-1 while Manchester City were held to a 1 -1 draw at home by Hull. This was Jose Mourinho’s first ever victory at Villa Park. Let us see what inferences we can draw from Chelsea’s victory over Villa.
MATURE HAZARD TAKES RESPONSIBILITY
In the absence of Chelsea’s two most influential players this season in Costa and Fabregas, Eden Hazard took the responsibility on himself to be the driving force. He popped up with a goal when Chelsea’s top goal scorer was suspended. A sprint from Oscar down the right saw him play the ball to Willian in the box. He passed the ball to Hazard, who hit it first time without even looking up, and Chelsea were a goal up within 8 minutes. Apart from that, we saw Hazard come deep numerous times into the Chelsea half and collect the ball and start the play, much like we have seen Fabregas do all season when he started alongside Matic. Constantly changing positions with Willian and Oscar, and sometimes even Ramires, we saw a much more mature side of Hazard, who took it upon himself to drive Chelsea ahead.
RAMIRES PROVES HIS UTILITY
He may not have the eye for a killer pass like Fabregas does or the capability of providing a large number of assists, but Ramires is no Salah. Whenever called upon, he has done his job with aplomb. Against Villa too, Ramires worked extremely hard to negate the threats of the impressive Fabien Delph and Gil. He ran his feet into the ground, as he usually does, and provided excellent cover to the centre-halves. With the amazing form of Fabregas, Ramires has had to be content mostly with a place on the bench. But like a true professional, he has always worked hard in training and on the pitch, without making any statements of discontent to the media.
COURTOIS MIGHT BE GOING THROUGH A SHAKY PHASE
The usually amazing Thibaut Courtois did not look at his comfortable best against Villa, as he was having a bit of trouble getting hold of the aerial balls. Courtois was however not at fault for the goal scored by Okore for Villa, owing to the defenders’ failure to mark him in the box. But every time there was a cross into the box, Courtois couldn’t catch hold of the ball with conviction. Against Manchester City too, we saw Courtois flapping weakly at Jesus Navas’s cross, which ultimately fell to Aguero and led to the goal. This might be a slight rough patch he is going through and is normal for every player playing a long season. Jose Mourinho has the luxury of having the legend Petr Cech on his bench and might consider giving Courtois a few matches off, during which he can regain his confidence.
REMY PROVIDES MORE OF A THREAT THAN DROGBA
Didier Drogba was surprisingly given the nod in the starting eleven ahead of Loic Remy, even after Remy’s goal scoring exploits against City last weekend. While Drogba has, with his 3 league goals this season, proved that he still has what it takes to perform at the highest level, Remy offers more of an attacking threat through his speed and stamina. While Drogba is still indomitable in the air even at 36, he does not have the legs to chase and press when Chelsea do not have possession. Remy, like Costa, works very hard, when it comes to pressing from the front. Also, as expected, Remy is faster than Drogba. With pacey wingers like Hazard and Willian on the flanks, Drogba found it difficult to cope with them. The Ivorian was caught offside a few times, when he failed to return to his position. When Drogba was substituted, and Remy was brought on, Chelsea’s attack became more meaningful and showed more intent, which had died down late in the first half.
IVANOVIC IS MR. DEPENDABLE
Whenever Chelsea have been in need of a vital goal, more often than not it is Branislav Ivanovic, who has come to the rescue. After he had scored the winner against Liverpool in the second leg of the semi-final of the Capital One Cup, Ivanovic was at it again, when Chelsea were tied at 1-1 with Villa. Azpilicueta did well to find space in the box, and as Villa failed to clear the ball, Ivanovic scored a stunner with his left, from just inside the box. This just adds to the long list of vital goals he has scored for Chelsea. From the two headed goals at Anfield in a Champions League knockout match, to the last minute winner against Benfica in the Europa League Final, to the winner against Napoli in extra time in the Champions League, the list just goes on and on. Hopefully, he will add a few more before the end of this season.
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Edited By: Vikram