Marcos Alonso provided a stunning display in defence and attack, scoring two goals and Pedro scored THROUGH A HEADER (Yes and even I couldn’t believe it at first) as The previous champions seek to snatch the crown from the defending champions at the King Power Stadium.
Chelsea fans do not have fond memories of this clash as the last time Chelsea visited the asking Power stadium, it turned out to be Mourinho’s last match in charge for the then defending champions losing 2-1. Well the Blues were pumped up in confidence and here is how Chelsea outplayed Ranieri’s men.
Chelsea played with the same 3-4-3 that had lost to Tottenham at White Hart Lane but there was one difference-and this was not at all a surprise. Diego Costa was left out of the squad for reasons only known to the club.(There’s no need to discuss the club’s internal issues in an article discussing the tactical aspects. 😉 ) . Leicester did change its formation though, and had a 3-5-2 formation to begin proceedings for the defending champions, with Mahrez and Slimani missing out due to national duty. It seemed very clear that the team was missing them dearly indeed.
Claudio Ranieri’s team did look a bit strong in the opening three to four minutes into the game until a long ball from Cesar Azpilicueta into the penalty area surprised the Leicester defenders, who looked clueless as to whom should they have marked. A calm but busy Eden Hazard freed the space around him by passing the ball to an unmarked Marcos Alonso who curled the ball into the back of the net with his apparently weaker foot to give Chelsea the lead in the sixth minute of the game.
An interesting thing to watch was Thibaut Courtois’ position during free kicks and especially the long throws from Fuchs. He seemed to mark either Musa or Vardy and stood near the six yard box line, a thing which is rarely seen and also a thing which shows the kind of confidence the Belgian keeper currently has. In simple words;when Fuchs was throwing long; Courtois was David Luiz with gloves on.
There was this instance when Courtois deflected a simple ground crossed pass which would have been cleared by David Luiz, but the Brazilian was not able to clear the ball, leading to a calm and quick approach from Courtois, which showed his presence of Mind and his sharpness due to intense training.
Gianluca Spinelli’s work indeed.
The defending done by Chelsea’s back three was spot on as it has been this season. The first chance of the game was taken by Leicester after a quick long ball by Danny Drinkwater. The back three immediately fall in the six yard box line and defend deep, making life for Courtois easy and the life of the strikers extremely difficult.
The front three for Chelsea were the surprise package in the game, and Conte seems to have executed his plan perfectly indeed. Pedro, Hazard and Willian showed their title rivals that they could manage even without Diego Costa, this time away from home. The main thing involved with the front three is their understanding and superb coordination. Though Hazard was given the central striker role, all the three players were given freedom to move ahead centrally, and this caused immense problems for the Leicester defenders as far as marking the “centre forward ” was concerned.
The front three were a class apart in the second half. After Alonso’s second goal, somewhere in the 64th minute, an insane Willian back heel to Moses which crossed the ball and found Alonso who was tempted to shoot on a juicy half volley to complete his hattrick;which was a failed attempt; was a treat to watch. Later in the second half an insane bit of passing from Pedro which found Willian on the right flank onside flicked the ball past Schmeichel to Pedro who HEADED the ball into the back of the net.
Chelsea players looked to try various skill sets they might have practiced at Cobham. The free kick taken by Luiz in the first half looked like it would be a direct one, but it turned out to be a short pass to Hazard(who acted as if he was going to charge into the penalty box) who then flicked the ball to Pedro whose shot went wide.
Cahill attempted a bicycle kick attempt which was deflected away by Morgan off a Willian corner. Strange. Tim Cahill with a bicycle kick sounds imaginable, but Gary Cahill!? Blimey.
The moment Conte realised the Leicester wing backs were not tracking back and marking the Chelsea players, he made sure Alonso and Moses dominated the spaces on the flanks. Plus the front three are short statured so they were not able to match the physicality of the Leicester defenders as Diego Costa does. Well, Alonso is tall, runs fast and there are no players marking him. So why not?
Chelsea looked like they had a solid plan to outplay the champions which was executed brilliantly with grit, determination, and above all, the spirit in which champions play.