Win Against Stoke Shows Chelsea’s Versatility
On Saturday, at Stamford Bridge, Mark Hughes’ Potters didn’t make it easy for the Blues to capture their 13th consecutive victory.
In fact, it would be reasonable to suggest that number thirteen was the toughest to secure on Chelsea’s current win streak.
While it was Conte’s men that would draw the first blood, Stoke would level the score twice in the match to push Chelsea harder than any opponent has, since the switch to a 3-4-3 formation.
While Chelsea managed to see off the Potters and earn all three points, the fashion in which they did tells us all we need to know about their title credentials.
Since changing formations, Conte’s defense has been very close to perfect. Not many teams have broken the threshold, which makes Stoke City’s exploits all the more impressive, scoring not once but twice on the day.
However, the more important talking point for Chelsea will be how they found a way to respond, even when their defense had been beaten.
For all the praise Antonio Conte receives, it’s his tactical prowess that helps to separate him from other Premier League managers.
Chelsea are incredibly disciplined, well-drilled, and relentless on defense. Their ability to stifle opponents higher up the pitch allows them to see more of the ball and in turn create more going forward.
So what happens when things don’t go according to plan? We saw on Saturday that it is in fact possible to breach Chelsea’s backline. They were caught flat-footed on a free kick which lead to the first goal and allowed Peter Crouch behind their defense on the second.
However, Saturday was the first time we saw this revitalized Chelsea team give up a lead. The only 2 goals against the Blues up until this point in their run were scored before Conte’s men could begin their own tally.
Against Stoke, Chelsea had blown a lead, not once but twice. They surrendered 2 goals from a position of advantage. It was not typical of the West Londoners.
So, how would they navigate this new found territory? By finding a way to fight back, that’s how.
On the shoulders of Willian, who had his personal best match of the season, Chelsea were able to right their own wrongs and regain their position ahead of Stoke. They regained the lead twice in the match, with Diego Costa adding a fourth for good measure.
Matches like this can test even the best teams. Chelsea’s ability to secure a victory on Saturday allowed them to pass this test with flying colors.
Conte’s men aren’t taking their position as title favorites lightly, they’re embracing it.
It’s one thing to win when everything goes according to plan. But on Saturday, Chelsea showed they have the graft to win when plans aren’t enough to see them past the finish line.
While defeating Stoke 4-2 may not be impressive on paper, given Chelsea’s exploits thus far, Saturday’s match may be the biggest warning shot that the Blues have fired all season.
Chelsea are aiming for the title and it will take more than upsetting their rhythm to stop them.
Tyler Strauss is a senior writer for CFCNet. Follow him on Twitter @tyler_strauss_.