In a surprisingly competitive match, Chelsea overcame BATE 0-1.

The win gave Chelsea 12 points, a perfect four wins from four, and put them into the next round of the Europa League and meant that Maurizio Sarri has now gone 16 competitive games as Chelsea boss without defeat. What did we learn?

1. The complacency of quality

The overall sensation of Chelsea’s win over BATE was that of disappointment. Yes, Chelsea won, but they really had to work for it. The team’s attitude was off from the first minute; the complacency in their minds was clear. And in many ways this is understandable, Chelsea are wholly superior to BATE and have a big game against Everton at the weekend.

This is why the Chelsea XI, which notably included star men Eden Hazard and Jorginho, was a problem. When you play your superstars in a cup game that the side doesn’t truly have an urgent need to win, they will not play with the intense drive and desire they should do.

Sure, Chelsea were better than BATE and when they flexed their muscles they showed that, but by and large BATE found it easy to outdo the Chelsea effort levels and get a foothold in the match. The Belorussian club had the better chances and even hit the woodwork in stoppage time. It was the kind of night where Chelsea playing a less-talented side would have paid dividends as the players would have worked that much harder rather than looking to save themselves for the weekend.

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2. Giroud, at last!

Olivier Giroud won the World Cup without scoring a single goal in the summer. That’s pretty impressive for a striker. Since then, in competitive matches for Chelsea, Olivier Giroud had gone 794 minutes of football without scoring a single goal. That is a colossal amount of time; you could watch The Godfather and The Godfather part II both. Twice.

But the handsome Frenchman, who admitted post-match that fatigue from the World Cup perhaps left him lacking “a little efficiency,” showed a nice dose of it against BATE. Emerson sent in a fine cross and Giroud rose elegantly at the near-post, nodding the ball down and into the back of the net. It was a deft touch that owed a little bit to some soft goalkeeping, but much like Alvaro Morata against Vidi in the same competition, it could be exactly what Giroud needs to kick-start his season.

3. Loftus-weak


Ruben Loftus-Cheek battered a hat-trick past BATE at Stamford Bridge. In Borisov, however, he had a much rougher go of things. This is no surprise, it’s obviously harder playing away than at home. But the most frustrating thing for the Englishman must have been how he was removed for Mateo Kovacic just past the hour mark.

Instead of removing (and protecting) Jorginho or Ross Barkley ahead of the weekend, Sarri instead hooked Loftus-Cheek, who is unlikely to feature against Everton. The sub was so disheartening, because why rob the youngster of the chance to play 90 minutes? Sure, he wasn’t playing well, but you never know how he may have reacted in the last 25 minutes!

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Yet more confirmation, as though it was needed, that Loftus-Cheek needs to leave Chelsea in January if he is to play regular football.

4. A hard hour for Hazard

Eden Hazard has barely played for the last few weeks, suffering from a back injury that has kept him on the sidelines. It’s for this reason that Maurizio Sarri took him all the way to Belarus to play here vs. BATE.

Now, one could make the case that protecting Hazard and restricting his minutes, even recovery minutes, to just the Premier League was a safer approach to a player who has always struggled with fatigue, but the fact is Hazard played and did well.

He wasn’t at his free-flowing best, but there were clear signs of his talent slowly waking from it’s injury-induced slumber. When he was taken off after an hour, he looked fairly pleased with his night’s work. There’s much more to come!

5. Pray for the kids

Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi must wonder what they have to do in order to get a game for Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri. Their continued absence from games in the Europa League group stage makes about as little sense as that time when hatchet-man defender Khalid Boulharouz wore Chelsea’s no. 9 shirt.

Alright to be fair, Hudson-Odoi plays in Hazard’s position so he was always likely to start today on the bench as Hazard started. But why, when Hazard went off, was he replaced by Wilian and not Hudson-Odoi?

As Sarri himself said: “Willian played four matches in a row so it’s better for Willian to rest and for Eden to play this evening.” So if it’s better he rest, why not let him rest and hand that 30 minute cameo to Hudson-Odoi?? In the end he got on for the last five minutes, which is basically pointless when it comes to development.

And Ampadu… well there’s two places he could play. Obviously he could play at the base of midfield, where Sarri took his crucial superstar Jorginho because Cesc Fabregas was out with a fever and “we need Jorginho in order to not change our way of football.”

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But again, couldn’t Ampadu help Chelsea do that? Wouldn’t that have been a great experience for him? Or maybe play him at the back next to Andreas Christensen? There’s almost nothing gained from Gary Cahill, the former Bolton defender who looks so finished he probably would struggle to get a game for Bolton today.

Maurizio Sarri may have Chelsea playing nice, attacking football much more pleasing than anything during the Antonio Conte regime. But the end he seems just as reluctant to give young players their chances as the Blues’ tempestuous former coach.

The post BATE Borisov 0-1 Chelsea: Five things learned as Giroud gets off the mark appeared first on Squawka News.

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