Whilst Chelsea departed with three deserved points, it certainly does not tell the whole story.
Frank Lampard’s men grew into the game, demonstrating a technical and clinical instinct undeniably lacking in the Villa camp. Ultimately, the drive, determination and discipline on display from our opponents was the difference.
Whilst Sheffield United felt like the one that got away given our domination in terms of chances, this has a similar feeling given our good fortune for finding ourselves leading.
As aggrieved as The Blades were not to be ahead before half-time midweek, likely too were Chelsea, following Hause’s smash and grab moments before the break.
What was most concerning was not Chelsea’s pressure nor their obvious quality. It was how naive we were to sit deep, rigidly sticking to a predictable game-plan that invited their probing and thus resigning ourselves to what was a decidedly toothless defeat.
Whilst few might reasonably have expected us to beat the London side, having held the lead and with results so favourable, this could well be a result circled come the end of the season. It was ultimately a game that was turned on it’s head and which we lost inside a mere two minute spell.
With just eight games remaining, the relegation battle is firmly on.
The Norwegian stopper pulled off a good first half save but could do little about either of Chelsea’s goals. Indeed, the finger of blame can only point towards rather abject defending. We published a detailed article on Nyland’s confidence and concentration being critical, and this was illustrated perfectly with another near calamity. Whilst ‘Hawk-Eye‘ can be marked down as a freak occurance, few could deny holding their breath as the ball spilled and spun toward goal when the 29 year old failed to collect an effort. A going concern.
A far from assured performance, again deputising for the injured Frederic Guilbert. Whilst Konsa did the basics well against Sheffield United, he was terrorised against Chelsea, who repeatedly targeted the former Brentford man, playing out of position. As it turned out, both of the visitor’s goals came from down the right hand side. A reality check for our use of Konsa in this role.
Showed grit and guile to get the opening goal, utilising his physique and quick reactions to find the net just before half-time. It wasn’t a pretty effort, but it was the type of battling, determined goal that keeps a team in the division. It doesn’t matter how you score them after-all. All at sea like the rest of the defence for both goals though.
Put himself in the line of fire in the first half blocking a fierce effort, but often appeared to be carrying those around him as Chelsea probed. With McGinn bereft of fitness and Grealish lacking impact on the game, he cut a lone influential figure with any fight.
Targett was harried relentlessly midweek, but benefitted from Chelsea’s attentions appearing mostly on the Villa’s right. Guilty of repeatedly gifting the ball back to the visitors, and whilst not alone in this, invited pressure to build upon himself and the defence. Targett is not a limited footballer in terms of capability, but seems to make the same mistakes repeatedly. Not a performance that inspired any great confidence, despite a high work-rate.
A performance that did not improve upon a wasteful early free-kick punted out of play when in a dangerous position. Hourihane is another who illustrates momentary quality in a Villa shirt. This was an anonymous performance at a time when the team could benefit from some flair and guile.
The Scottish international was so out of the game that the first you may have seen of him was when he was substituted. Woefully short of match fitness and form following injury, a huge loss.
The Brazilian came in for justified criticism early season for naivity and complacency. This was a mature performance with little support from his peers in midfield but came with no reward. Encouraging from Luiz, but as with Mings, he cannot do it alone.
Ghosted in and out of the game but made a very limited impression upon it. Forced a smart save with an effort from range, but another Villa player who seemed to lack any intensity or urgency to take the game to Chelsea. Incredibly frustrating to watch a player with his ability fail to take on the opposition, especially knowing he has the capability to carry the ball at pace. Appears either shackled or disinterested and once more understandably hooked off by Smith.
Our marquee man contributed little of note and found himself a bystander to proceedings for much of the afternoon. Victim of a couple of professional fouls, but was well matched in those moments he had the ball at his feet. A dissapointing display that lacked the impact of player with international aspirations.
Physically competitive as ever but rarely suggested he could hurt Chelsea. Davis has obvious qualities which we seem determined not to benefit from. Cut a lonely soul and had little in the way of thoughtful service to him either. Replaced mere minutes into the second half, when argubaly he should have been supported with a strike partner.
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