In a snowy afternoon of FA Cup football, Chelsea comfortably beat Luton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues went up early but Luton got back into it held on and for an hour made it quite tricky, but in the end Chelsea won comfortably. What did we learn?
1. Tammy is the golden middle
The striking position at Chelsea is one of uncertainty; is Timo Werner the guy with his pace and skill? Or How about Champions League hat-trick hero Olivier Giroud with his aerial prowess and link play? The third wheel, someone with neither the big fee of Werner or the trophy cabinet and pedigree of Giroud is Tammy Abraham.
Thing is, Tammy Abraham might be the golden middle ground between the two extremes of Werner and Giroud.
The Englishman is quick across the ground and moves into space well as we saw with Chelsea’s first goal where he finished confidently. He is also is a big, tall figure who can dominate in the air as we saw with Chelsea’s second goal. Finally he has his own kind of striking instincts, allowing him to be in the right place at the right time for a tap-in as we saw with Chelsea’s third goal.
Oh, yeah, Tammy Abraham scored a hat-trick. Just to emphasise how useful and important he could be.
Tammy Abraham is the first Englishman to score an FA Cup hat-trick for Chelsea since Frank Lampard against Macclesfield in 2007.
Picking up tips from his manager. pic.twitter.com/b0V7jfu1nL
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 24, 2021
2. Luton can change it up
Nathan Jones’ Luton began this game playing 3-5-2 with the idea being to try and contain Chelsea’s forwards with as many bodies as possible. The problem here was that the movement of the Chelsea attacks was too much to deal with.
20 minutes in and the Blues were already 2 up and it could have been more. Jones had to adjust and he did, changing into a back four and adding more bodies to midfield to better contest Billy Gilmour who had been running the show.
This did actually work and as a result not only did Luton get a goal back but for an hour the visitors matched their illustrious hosts. In the end difference in quality proved too much as Chelsea powered to the win, but Luton showed they are better than the 13th best team in the Championship.
3. Kepa gonna Kepa
It seems that no matter the opposition, Kepa Arrizabalaga is going to make a mistake. And not just any old mistake, an absolutely needless mistake that could have had dire consequences for Chelsea.
The Blues were cruising at 2-0 when Kepa’s failure to block a tame shot from Jordan Clarke let Luton back into the game and kept things on a knife edge until the 77th minute. A needless extra hour of stress when the Blues could have been chilled.
Again, it’s not that Kepa is a bad goalkeeper. The save he made on the hour mark, raising his left arm quickly to stop Harry Cornick’s goalbound effort was genuinely impressive, but he seems almost pre-destined to make a mistake every time he plays and that makes it very hard if not impossible for him to overcome Edouard Mendy and regain his starting role.
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4. Billy Gilmour could have a big role
Chelsea won comfortably against Luton and in part that was because of the brilliance of Billy Gilmour in the middle of the park. the 19-year-old broke onto the scene last season in an EFL Cup win over Liverpool, but injuries held him back. Now he’s fit again and easing his way back into the Chelsea side and honestly, on the basis of today, he could have a big role.
Obviously it was only Luton but Chelsea played just two midfielders and none of them were their big money veterans N’Golo Kanté, Mateo Kovacic or Jorginho. And yet Chelsea still played coherently in large part because Gilmour was so comfortable running the show in midfield.
The Scot was calling the shots like a veteran, instructing team-mates when to push up, where to stand, when to pass. It was really quite ridiculous to see a teenager play with such authority and it bodes very well for the future of Chelsea’s midfield that they can bring both him and Mason Mount through at the same time.
5. 4-4-2 gets the best out of Werner
For a team who has tried about 10 different formations under Frank Lampard, there’s something oddly settling about the Blues finally going for a 4-4-2. Instead of trying to cram their forwards into a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, they simply opened it all up into the most basic of formations.
Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic playing out wide was not a surprise, the differences came in midfield and in attack. With just two midfielders, you needed dynamism, so Lampard went for Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour and they delivered.
Timo Werner has scored just one goal in his last 16 games for Chelsea.
It came against League Two Morecambe. pic.twitter.com/PDZIPMxmbL
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 24, 2021
The key was in attack, however. Timo Werner has struggled to lead the line, but playing him wide isn’t really an answer either. So with Tammy Abraham leading the line, Werner was free to roam and probe, looking for spaces created by Abraham’s movement; and more often than not he found them – the first goal being a prime example of that.
Sure, Werner was typically shy in front of goal and missed a penalty quite embarrassingly; but he played well overall. His movement was sharper, the horizontal freedom granted by playing as a second striker meant he could link more freely with Ziyech and Pulisic. It’s just the perfect situation for the German forward and could help Chelsea get the best out of him going forward.