Football Features

West Brom 3-3 Chelsea: The big winners & losers as the kids bail out Thiago Silva

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:59, 26 September 2020 | Updated: 9:47, 30 March 2021

In a topsy turvy evening of football, Chelsea came from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with West Brom at the Hawthorns.

It was an intense but classic “game of two halves” as the Blues once again showed their offensive firepower and defensive frailty. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Callum Robinson

Last season Callum Robinson scored three goals for West Brom. This season Callum Robinson has already scored two goals for West Brom, and they came in one game, against Champions League side Chelsea. That’s honestly all that needs to be written, because Robinson was absolutely lethal for the Baggies.

His first goal was a sublime finish, lasering the ball low across goal with his left-foot. It looks like the kind of goal that should be saved but it swerved away and was never within reach for Willy Caballero. The second saw Robinson pounce on a sloppy touch in defence to surge forward and drive the ball low, this time with his right-foot, to incredibly double West Brom’s lead.

Chelsea were undone by CR7, which isn’t a surprising sentence to read until you look into the fine print (although given Robinson’s previous Premier League goal was also against Chelsea, maybe it’s just not surprising full-stop). This was a staggering achievement from the Englishman and if he can kick on from here and, buoyed by the confidence given to him, then he could be the goalscorer West Brom will need to stay up.

Loser: Thiago Silva

Thiago Silva had the good fortune of being suspended for Brazil’s 7-1 defeat to Germany, so everyone could pin the defensive anarchy to his absence. When PSG beat Barcelona 4-0 in 2017, Thiago Silva was absent and a then-teenaged Presnel Kimpembe helped shut M-S-N down. For the return leg, when Barcelona won 6-1, Thiago Silva had come in for Kimpembe. Still all the focus was on the Blaugrana so no one really took the time to sit and think about Thiago Silva’s impact on the defence.

There’s no denying that the Brazilian was once world-class, but his impact and ability in recent years has been dramatically overstated and he has benefited greatly from the fact that PSG have such an overwhelming advantage over the other Ligue 1 sides that he’s not truly tested on a regular basis. Let’s face facts: he’s 36-years-old and has been coasting for years.

Thiago Silva can definitely be a good mentor to Chelsea’s young defenders, but a partner to them? In the Premier League? West Brom exposed that he may not be fully ready to handle the pace of play in this league and who knows how long it will take him to get ready?

Despite Silva’s presence Marcos Alonso still made a big mistake before West Brom’s first and Robinson absolutely rinsed Thiago Silva for their second goal and had the Baggies attacked with a bit more gusto in the second-half they could have done more damage to the Blues’ new Brazilian (who only looked so solid as true blue leader César Azpilicueta came on at half-time). He’ll get better (he can’t get much worse) but will he get good enough to carry Chelsea’s back-line? Let’s see.

Winner: Kyle Bartley

Kyle Bartley had himself one hell of a game against Chelsea. No one would have begrudged him had Chelsea blown West Brom away, but that’s not what happened. The Baggies battled hard and Bartley was at the heart of it.

The 29-year-old centre-back was a rock at the back for the Baggies amid 90 minutes of unrelenting pressure from Chelsea. Bartley made a game-high 11 clearances; that’s as many as Chelsea managed as a team. He also scored West Brom’s third goal, slapping home a wonderful volley to put West Brom into what looked at the time to be an unassailable position.

And even though they conceded the expected three goals in the end, it would have been so much more were it not for Bartley’s constant interventions.

Loser: Slaven Bilic

Slaven Bilic’s West Brom have now taken the lead twice in two weeks, starting furiously against both Everton and Chelsea. And both times they have given the game up in the second-half. Last week they could blame Kieron Gibbs’ red card, but this week? It was all Slaven Bilic.

Obviously the Baggies took an incredible 3-0 lead and that too must be credited to Bilic, but games last 90 minutes not 45. And his gameplan in the second-half was just far too defensive. Obviously you want to protect the lead, but West Brom lost far too much ambition and thus invited far too much pressure. They spent the entire second-half waiting and waiting and eventually Chelsea inched their way back into the game because West Brom just couldn’t find a spark on the break.

Winner: Chelsea’s kids

Last season Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi were spoken of as being Chelsea’s saviours. The youngsters who would rise up in the absence of any big transfers and guide Chelsea into a bold new era. And for the most part they did just that.

Then the summer came, and the Blues spent all that green they’d been saving. Big new names were brought in, and all these youngsters were immediately cast aside. Or were they? Frank Lampard has made an effort to include Mason Mount all the time, whilst Abraham’s performance in the EFL Cup saw him get the chance today.

And when Chelsea needed rescuing, who did Lampard turn to? Callum Hudson-Odoi was one of two subs at half-time, and none of the kids were taken off. Sure enough, when Chelsea desperately needed goals it wasn’t their big money boys that got them.

Just as last week saw Reece James rescue them with his thunderbolt, this week Mason Mount pulled them back into it with his own blaster, then Callum Hudson-Odoi made them believe, and finally Tammy Abraham tapped home a massive equaliser in the last minute.

From 3-0 down to 3-3, all thanks to Chelsea’s kids.

Loser: Frank Lampard

Lampard talks a good game. That’s twice now his side have come out and played poorly and picked up points anyway thanks to the individual genius of his players, and twice he’s come out and spoken frankly about things being “not good enough.”

But who’s responsible for that, Frank? The manager has to take some ownership, especially given how he’s managed the Blues. Maybe using about five different formations in a single game when you have no underlying philosophy of play to keep things coherent isn’t the smartest idea in the world? Maybe constantly rotating your goalkeepers every other game, basically ensuring that neither of them build up any sort of confidence, isn’t a good thing to do? Maybe spending £62m on a forward and £0 on centre-back wasn’t very clever at all?

Maybe, just maybe, Frank Lampard is the one who’s “not good enough.”