Clean sheets are a lost art

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Chelsea's Michy Batshuayi celebrates scoring their third goal with Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Picture: Action Images


Tim Harrison

By Tim Harrison

A muggy night in London can’t explain away Chelsea’s laboured performance in the EFL Cup, scraping past Bristol Rovers at Stamford Bridge.

The lowly League One side gave the Blues a scare, with Antonio Conte forced to use Eden Hazard, John Terry and Oscar to shore things up at the end.

So nervous were fans that they forgot to sing their new chant:

Tony Conte does it better
Makes me happy
Makes me feel this way.

It’s an anthem unlikely to win awards, but it gives supporters something to practise ahead of the day in October when Jose Mourinho visits the Bridge with Manchester United.

Initially it looked as if the Pirates would capsize, so overwhelming was Chelsea’s possession. A flurry of goals in a 12-minute spell left the score 3-1 at the break.

That became 3-2 after Bristol won a penalty, and Chelsea were clinging on by the final whistle. Michy Batshuayi scored twice, narrowly missed out on a hat-trick, and seemed to show a real understanding with home-grown youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

But keeping clean sheets appears to be a lost art for Chelsea.

Last weekend’s trip to Watford was only won by a late Diego Costa goal, set up beautifully by sub Cesc Fabregas.

Three games, three wins, but no convincing performances.

Tony Conte’s desired new style is not coming naturally.

Tuesday night’s display underlined the majesty of Fabregas, the pass master. It seems absurd that Conte should overlook him… in any formation.

But having the lion’s share of the ball means nothing if your opponents are allowed back into a game that should have been killed off by the interval.

By the end, the Blues feared being pushed into extra time.

Other teams – perhaps including Burnley, who visit the Bridge this weekend – are certain to exploit Chelsea’s all-too-obvious defensive frailties.

The priority has to be seriously tightening up everything at the back.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

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