It was exactly what Jose Mourinho would have wanted going into the match. A comfortable victory, with his younger lads being tested, no injuries and a straightforward result. Chelsea will win no honors and turn no heads with their performance on Wednesday night. But when the final whistle blew, the job was done, and Chelsea were on to the next round of the Capital One Cup, defeating Walsall 4-1 on the road.
Kenedy was Chelsea’s outstanding performer on the match, providing the opening assist, a good cross that Ramires ran on to and headed past the Walsall keeper. Kenedy continued to push forward, often making incisive runs on and off the ball. He even got on the scoresheet himself, slipping into the 18-yard box and scoring comfortably for his first Chelsea goal. The former Fluminense winger has seamlessly transitioned into Mourinho’s squad and promises to be a strong addition both this season and in the future.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek had another strong Chelsea performance. I think that one of the best things that Jose Mourinho did as a Chelsea manager is publically criticize the young Englishman’s defensive workrate at the end of last season. The 19-year-old has adapted to Mourinho’s style, using his strength to win several tackles throughout the course of the match. He is a strong, well-built, box-to-box midfielder. His manager deployed him higher up the pitch against Walsall than he had played against Maccabi a week ago. However, Loftus-Cheek continued to look comfortable, proving to be a rock in the middle of the park for Chelsea.
His defensive duties allowed for Ramires to be more attacking minded and have one of his best games in a long while for the Blues.
Falcao was an interesting case during the match. During the first half, I felt that he was unfortunate not to score. The Colombian was energetic up top, making several runs off the ball, creating a few opportunities for himself and his teammates. He had several good touches and he was unlucky not to find the net. The second half was a different story for the 29-year-old. His touch began to suffer along with his end product. He gaffed at a few chances he should have at least put on goal, and his touch got away from him a bit too often.
Overall, Falcao will be happy with his performance, and will look to improve upon his contribution. Especially considering Costa will be out for another two matches, it’ll be important to see how Falcao will fair should the Spaniard have to spend more time out of the team, whether it be due to injury or suspension.
Remy also had a strong performance. The Frenchman was deployed on the wing and showed his versatility, creating several chances and finding the back of the net from the right. His movement was strong and with Willian and Pedro already having suffered injuries this season, he proved that he is another option out on the wing.
Baba Rahman put in another solid outing against Walsall. I don’t think he was tested that much defensively, but he was comfortable in attack, and created several opportunities going forward. It’ll be interesting to see the role he will have this season, but he is definitely proving his worth to Mourinho. He appears to have a bright future ahead of him.
Ivanovic had an interesting day at Walsall. The first half was certainly not his best, getting beaten a few times on the wing by former Chelsea man Milan Lalkovič. However, by the second half he seemed to settle down, and was responsible for several clearances in the back. Coupling his second half with his performance at the weekend against Arsenal, it seems as though the Serbian has stopped the bleeding and is putting in work to get back to his stellar form last season. However, he still has a long way to go.
Pedro looked strong off of the bench and even found the back of the net in the waning minutes of stoppage time.
Chelsea will hope that their struggles are behind them and they can continue their run against a so far woeful Newcastle. The Magpies bowed out of the Capital One Cup today, failing to score against Championship side, Sheffield Wednesday. Steve McClaren’s men have also failed to record a win in the Premier League thus far.
Look for players like Fabregas and Hazard to be back in the team, with guys like Cahill and Remy most likely keeping their place. It’ll be interesting to see if Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy or Traore get any time, perhaps in the latter stages of the game, should the Blues be in control.
Overall, Chelsea have a lot of work to do if they are to get back into the title race in the Premier League. However, they appear to be moving in the right direction, while also starting well in both the Champions League and the Capital One Cup.
Although Newcastle sit bottom of the table, they always seem to lineup well against Chelsea. If there were a time for them to turn it on and record their first win, it would be against the Blues. I would expect Jose Mourinho to put out a strong team, and keep their focus on St. James’ Park. There will be plenty of time to prepare for FC Porto after the Saturday’s match.