Shed End Dallas

Chelsea FC Supporters Group - Dallas Texas

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Barkley should be a good fit in the Chelsea lineup!

Barkley should be a good fit.  I feel Conte really wants to play the 5-3-2/3-3-4 formation and Barkley fits into this team as one of the 3 Central Midfielders.  The 3 have differing roles.  You have a defensive screen, a player to play longer pass and offer options from deep and late, and then the CM that burst for with and without the ball.  Barkley fits the mold of the 3rd player described in the 3 man midfield.  Bakayoko has been tasked with the third role and hasn’t been good enough for the formation to succeed. 

Barkley will add unpredictability to our attack.  He will burst forward to find space to be played in to either go to goal himself or to get in a good position between the lines and play through balls.  He does dwell on the ball, sometimes to the team’s advantage and at times to the team’s detriment.  Having a player that holds onto the ball will make it easier for the wing backs to get forward which in turn should create more space for the front two.  Having a creative player express himself comes with him losing the ball on occasion until they become a very polished player.  Be ready to take the good with the bad. 

With that said, a part of Barkley’s game I like most is that he is always wanting to go forward with the ball at his feet or passing forward.  He dwells on the ball because he takes on the responsibility of linking defense and attack.  Too often it seems our players find a simple pass and aren’t taking enough risk.  This is a delicate balance to prevent losing possession, but we will see an increase in forward passes with Barkley in the team.  He also does a good job of finding space for himself, angles for his teammates, and is always looking for the ball.    

In addition, he is two footed with a good range of passing, nice range on his shot, and pretty good finisher.  He is willing to get in the box.  He will put in a tackle and fight for the team but is rash in tackles and a liability to get sent off in heated and important matches.   

Overall, I would say he is similar to Joe Cole.  Probably less flair but a higher work rate.  Like Joe Cole I think he will have ups and downs during games and during the season.  Potential to be a brilliant player at times and incredibly frustrating at times.  Bringing him in January is a good move to have him more prepared next season to be a more consistent player.

More soon,....

B Stewart

What should the team focus on to get back to their best?

Every player should be focused on improving their strengths and weaknesses while also trying to add diversity to their game.  This is not an attack on the players based on their performances, these are my humble observations of potential areas of improvement in each player’s game.  These observations are over years of watching them and form to start the season.  Feel free to let me know your opinion of my observation.

·         Thibuat Courtois – Passing into midfield.  A ball playing goal keeper is important if a team wants to build out of the back.  Passing into midfield a few times a match would prevent teams pressing our back 3 as much which will allow us to reduce the number of low percentage long balls.

·         Cesar Azpilicueta – One on one defending, primarily this positioning to force his man one direction and closing him down quicker.  Closing a player down late is a dribbler’s dream it gives them the space to get the defender off balance and beat him.  Being tight as the ball arrives prevents the attacker from running at you.

·         Antonio Rudiger – Positioning. His positioning has been poor.  His athleticism helps make it less noticeable but he will eventually get caught out and his pace won’t be enough to make up for it. (score that damn header against Roma too!)

·         David Luiz(CB) – Positional discipline while defending.  It is import to move into attacking positions while we have the ball but he should return to his defensive position quickly when he isn’t available to receive or there is any danger of losing possession. 

·         Andreas Christensen – Moving into the attacking positions to help support the 2 or 3 CMs.  As mentioned earlier this helps keep possession but just passing back to the center of 3 CBs does not create passing lanes.  He needs to step into a deep CM possession while the CMs are being marked and should have passing lanes into the front 3.

·         Gary Cahill – Stepping into midfield to press attackers and with the ball.  When the 3 play against 1 CF we have to press the attacking midfielders from one of the RCB and LCB position almost all of the time.  This will help us not cede as much territory and win the ball back quicker.  With the ball… we won’t discuss the Burnley red card, but it seems that has halted is ambition to attack.

·         Victor Moses – Finishing, particularly the shot from about 20 yards on his left foot.  He doesn’t have to score this shot but he needs to force the keep to at least parry his shot.  If he starts hitting the target this will force CBs to close him down quicker when he cuts inside the full back creating space for the CF to run behind for a short slotted ball or reverse pass.

·         Davide Zappacosta – Playing further up the field.  Against weaker opponents he is running behind on a regular basis.  We need that against quality opponents.  The wing backs driving back the opposing fullbacks create space for our attacking midfielders/inside forwards to drop in and receive the ball.  When the wing backs play too deep the opposing fullbacks can track our attackers into midfield.

·         Marcos Alonso – Is it too late to get quicker?  Crossing.  This one is tough for me because I thought he was our best crosser of the ball last season but I cannot remember him finding Morata with a good whipped in cross all season.  In a 3-5-2 he could possibly find Zappacosta on the back post if he runs behind as previously mentioned.

·         Kenedy – Create a link with one or two reserve attackers.  I have said this before but young players trying to get a game should be working in unison to all get into the first team picture.  If they create their own relationships and patterns of play they can look very good together possibly getting more than one of them a game.  When we play 3 CMs Kenedy is a better fit than Alonso as he can get up and back better and we need the wingbacks high with only two attackers.  He should be doing additional training with Batshuayi, Musonda, Willian and Pedro so when they play together they are on the same wave length.

·         N’Golo Kante – Playing give and goes.  He is a complete player and already working on his shooting and composure on the ball.  Those two are more important but with him being a complete player I thought diversity is what he needs in his game.  When he picks the ball up and runs with it then makes a pass he should be looking for a return if he has sucked in a defender.  Last season he’d play a pass and find his defensive position (which I love), but he should be looking to effect the game more going forward.  To see the effectiveness of good 1-2s, see City against us in the 2nd half. 

·         Tiemoue Bakayoko – Concentration.  We know this would be an area to improve and I think in the defensive and attacking 3rds of the field he is more alert than in the central 3rd of the pitch.  With less immediate danger he drifts defensively at times and allows him man to receive the ball or get away from him.  Against weak teams it can cause problems, against quality sides in can mean we won’t touch the ball for longer periods of time.

·         Cesc Fabregas – Tempo.  What the hell happened to the player that was cool calm and collected and would get on the ball 20-30 times more than everyone on the pitch and never lose it?  He used to be Ludacris on the ball.  Yes L-U-D-A-C-R-I-S…

o   When I move you move (just like that)

When I move you move, (just like that)

When I move you move, (just like that)

Hell yeah hey Cescy pass that back

               To Ludacris – Stand Up

                He gets on the ball less often and keeps it less often than last season.  He needs to get his game back to that level for us to be successful.

·         Danny Drinkwater – Don’t collect a check until he plays a match.  Next.

·         David Luiz(CM) – Organize.  He can put the 2 more advanced CMs and the 2 strikers in the correct positions to keep the opponent from penetrating or switching play be communicating well.  *Side bar - Keep kicking people in midfield, it makes a huge difference

·         Willian – Pass and move.  At the seams like any pass over 15 yards is a 50/50 proposition for him.  I haven’t tried to diagnose the issue but I am sure it is getting back to the basics of pointing your toe, facing up shoulders, following through, and leaning over the ball, etc…

·         Pedro – Running in behind.  This is an important aspect in creating space for the midfield and other attackers.  This is actually one of his strengths but I do not think he has had enough match time to effectively off balance the opposing back line.  Even without him getting the ball he can create a goal scoring opportunity.  For example… Morata is standing 1 yard off side and Pedro is 5 yards onside.  Pedro starts sprinting behind.  Knowing he cannot hold and run once the ball is played the fullback has to run back 2 – 3 yards as a buffer until Pedro is approaching being even with the other defender’s line.  At this point the fullback can step back up into line with his other defenders.  The CB’s are not watching the full back, they are watching their man and the ball.  As Pedro starts his run Morata should be ready to go a second or 2 later.  When Morata is played the ball he is already moving forward, a yard behind the CBs, most likely the CBs will hesitate thinking he is offsides, but the fullback held him on while trying to create a buffer for Pedro’s run behind.  (This got more attention because running behind has always been an under appreciated part of the game in my opinion.  Ask the legend Bryan Jones, I been harping on this for years and it is the main reason I really like Andre Schurrle). 

·         Eden Hazard – Leadership.  Even without the title of Captain we are struggling for a leader in the front line.  He is in good form but he needs more support form midfield and out wide.  He needs to be yelling and driving the team forward so we can play on the front foot.

·         Charly Musonda – Finding space in dangerous areas.  This is a tough skill because you have to think 2 or 3 passes ahead and drift in and out of space avoiding marks.  Too often it seems he gets open but at the wrong time or not in a dangerous position.  Possession is important but he needs to be receiving the ball in positions that cuts out groups of defenders, while receiving the ball half turned to be able to quickly run at a defender.  That will make him a valuable asset while he develops his game.

·         Alvaro Morata – Technique striking the ball.  Ok I know everything  he does looks graceful but I can’t think of one time he’s put his laces thru it and ball rocketed off his foot.  He has a lethal repertoire of finishes like Mortal Kombat 3, and when he is in front of goal the keeper is usually wobbling while he takes a touch and hits A-B-A-B-up-down-back-back-forward-A-B and flawless finish.  But I would like to see him hit one every once in a while that the keeper only sees a blur as it rips the net.

·         Michy Batshuayi – A Positive Aggressive First touch.  He obviously needs to control the ball better but he needs to be Michy.  He is quick and strong has the skill set to cause lots of problems for defenders.  He needs to be the target and lay the ball off when we need to keep it.  But if he wants to make it he needs to be trying to turn his man or off balance his man every chance he gets put his head down and try to get a shot off.  He may lose the ball often this way but the one time he scores it will be priceless and get defenders to drop off of him.

·         Antonio Conte – Gamble.  We have become too pragmatic, too scripted and predictable.  We will need to take risk to win big games, and we will need to be diverse to beat lesser teams.  I have no clue what Conte is yelling during the game but I feel right now he is yelling at the player that runs up to get back when we lose possession when he should be yelling graciously and praising the player who sprinted back to cover the guy out of position.  It is a small detail but I do not want my players keeping what to do when we lose the ball in the front of their mind.  We need to take calculated risk, but it seems like we are doing more calculating than risk taking at the moment.

B. Stewart

A Brief Analysis of Alvaro Morata - A Shed End Dallas Perspective

He is a quality player, with a diverse effective skillset. He isn’t a track star but is fast and quick. Speed of thought and intelligent positioning help him beat equal athletes in getting to the ball. He gets into dangerous positions and can intelligently find space away from the play to become an option at the end of moves; moreover, is also able to find space to participate in possession and moving the ball around the pitch. Morata is pretty strong on the ball, not sure how strong holding the ball with players on his back, but good at putting players on his hip and running with the ball. Like Alonso he is technically gifted and comfortable on the ball. He is much quicker than Alonso but if you notice Marcus Alonso doesn’t lose the ball often when it is at his feet. You get the same type of composure and control on the ball from Morata but a lot more pace with the ball. He also has a few simple but effective turns which seem like a lost art these days. 

While he looks like a pretty boy, he actually has a bit of a fiery side that has gotten him in a bit of trouble. It seems to have been harnessed but I’d imagine we will see it every once in a while this season. He is a good passer, seems to make the right pass which isn’t always the simple pass or obvious choice.  When compared to Diego Costa I do not see us losing much other than experience but having played in Europe with two massive clubs, and winning every major championship possible I think he will be up for any challenge. Having scored crucial goals in Serie A and UCL and most recently the equalizer in the UCL match away to Atletico. He is better than Costa in the air, maybe won’t hold a defender off as well, but will find space and more movement to not get into this type of situation. What helped Costa get back to his best last season was having two players close to him and often 1 ahead of him. It was frustrating at times watching Costa not play passes or miss key forward passes. Morata will be much better with players ahead of him. He is far from having the ability of a number 10, but he can drop into space, turn, shift to a side and find a pass or thru-ball more often and accurate than Costa. I think Morata has the potential to match Costa’s goal return and add more assists.

Costa liked to start in the center and move to his left to setup shots on his right foot. With Hazard also liking to work in this area, sometimes it hampered our attack. Morata seems more comfortable moving into different areas and is good with both feet which will help keep defenders off balance when he faces them up around the box. Costa also often didn’t seem to find the right tempo and timing with his teammates other than Hazard and Fabregas. Hopefully Morata will be able to build a similar relationship with these 2, but also Pedro, Willian, Alonso, Moses, and Musonda (I can hope). Remember he has played in big teams and was never the star or focal point. He will understand finding key players, creating chances and spaces for them, while also looking for his own opportunities. Morata will land more 1st time passes which reflects a better understanding of his surroundings, and also generating more space for his teammates and himself as the defenders have less time to close down or track runs. 

We will lose Costa’s ferocious closing down and tracking back, but if Morata can hold onto the ball in more situations where Costa would have lost it, this will not be as important. Not to say Morata is lazy in defense, Costa is just unique in this sense. Morata will do better maneuvering out of tight situations, where Costa would try to bully his way out which was not truly effective. You really never had to worry about Costa beating you to his left and shooting. It happened a few times but how often did you find him trying to force and bully the ball onto his right foot for a shot but getting tackled. Morata in his earlier days seemed to have a similar problem of wanting to put the ball on his right or being indecisive in front of goal but that looks like something he has gotten out of his game. Also he will score more goals in the 6 yard box, an area Costa didn’t get into as much as I’d like for a CF. 

If you all remember us playing Willian/Hazard/Pedro while Costa was out, the team looked just as good for the most part. This was because of the increased movement up front. Morata should fit into the system in this sense while adding strength and finishing ability. That being said, he could have a slow start as we have a tough start to the season. Morata is coming in confident from his comments about Conte placing faith in him. If his confidence remains high, and he stays fit, he should score plenty of goals.


B. Stewart

Batshuayi: Patience and Promise

Batshuayi: Patience and Promise

Going into the 2016/17 season with limited expectations, the majority of Chelsea fans would say the season is going way better than expected.  Leading the league and advancing comfortably in the FA Cup, along with the utilization of young players, doing good transfer business, and the handling of all of the off pitch controversies, Chelsea are having a wonderful first season under Antonio Conte. While we did lose to Arsenal and Spurs, their fans still know better than to get in a banter war, as we have too much ammunition to destroy any other EPL fan.  The only real question is, what is going on with Michy Batshuayi?

It is hard to say from the outside looking in, but there are a few things holding Batshuayi back.  First, let’s dispel the idea that Conte doesn’t rate him.  I do not think Conte is doing much of the work in scouting, but he would not have sanctioned the move if he didn’t want to work with the player.  If you look at Conte’s Juventus teams, every player purchased was for a specific role.  Not to say they all worked out, but you knew why they were purchased.  This is an important part of what has held Batshuayi back.  Conte did not plan on using this formation when taking over the team, but it was always his 2nd option.  He was planning to play the 4-2-4 which would have given Batshuayi much more game time even if only rotated in.

Looking at Batshuayi’s background you’ll see he was naturally temperamental as a youth.  He has clearly gotten his temper under control before heading to Marseille and has never had an outburst at Chelsea. Those characteristics do reflect an emotional player though, which isn’t a bad thing. He isn’t sad or depressed, but he is also not in the best mood or mentality to show his best.  This clearly has shown in his confidence.  Compare his performances from early in the season coming in and assisting the winner in our opening match and scoring an equalizer in the 2nd match of the season to now, and the difference is clear. This would be a great start to a career if he were leading the line, but these were both appearances off the bench.  After those appearances, he hadn’t played more than 10 minutes in a match in the league until the last 20 minutes of the Arsenal match in which we were trying a new system already 3-0 down. Next thing you know, we win 13 straight and he was basically left on the bench for 15 league matches. His misery hit a new low with being left on the bench in two matches with Diego Costa absent. These are highly paid professionals but humans are emotional and these emotions affect everyone differently.

Next, who he plays with when he gets a chance in the Cup matches also impacts his performance.  Without going into a major tactical and personnel discussion, there is a big difference in playing with Pedro and Hazard flanking him compared to Loftus-Cheek and Willian.  Not that the latter pair are not quality, but they do not open up space the same as Hazard and Pedro.  Hazard obviously gets a lot of attention because of his dribbling ability but Pedro is the key and we got to see the difference in the way he plays vs. Willian in our win vs Brentford.  With Pedro at Wingback and Willian ahead of him Pedro still ran in behind the opposing back 3 more often than Willian.  It works, but is an interesting dynamic for the centre forward.  When Pedro plays beside Costa, his running in behind the defense is key to Costa getting the ball to feet with space and getting space in and around the box. 

On on the other side with Loftus-Cheek, he is trying to score as badly as Batshuayi.  And fair play to both for being selfish at times, but they should realize their success can be built together.  Forget price tags and media pressure.  These two are in the same situation.  If they want to make it they should be training together 30 minutes to an hour every day after training.  Maybe asking Fabregas or a few other senior players to help them also.  You see a clear understanding between Hazard and Costa and their success has been built on their partnership.  It is tough to stop either player when in form, but nearly impossible to stop their partnership when it’s at its best.  Then, add Fabregas to that and they are unplayable.  Batshuayi and Loftus-cheek should be building the same and they’ll both become better players. 

Lastly, I want to start with saying Conte has been brilliant in his management of Batshuayi, and this is in no way a negative towards his method.  Batshuayi is clearly over-thinking on the pitch.  He looks like a dancer counting out the rhythm in his head when he gets the ball. This wasn’t the case at all early in the season.  He was more instinctive and lethal.  A moment in the Watford match when the ball rolled to him about 16 yards out, and he turned in two touches and smashed the ball off the crossbar without ever picking his head up.  I think he partially is struggling because his confidence is down, but I also think he is being over-coached.  Again, I think this is the right approach in this stage of his development.  He is being drilled on all the areas the manager and coaches want him to improve.  An information overload you could say.  If he were starting week in and week out they would not employ this method, but they are trying to get him ready for the future.  Over-coaching him until his movements, technique, and adjustments become natural and instinctive is the idea Conte has in mind for the Belgian.  When we truly need him he will be ready.  Repetition is something you’ll hear mentioned often(not as much as ‘work’), but it is really the key to players being ready in that one occasion you are in that situation when it matters most.  This is how Lampard became a world class finisher.  He took more shots between games than any player, so he didn’t have to take as many in games to score on a regular basis.

The fact Batshuayi is still happy and feels very involved in the team is down to the manager.  Conte seems an astute man manager, and from Batshuayi’s body language he does get along with the manager on the pitch and is in constant conversation about how to improve.  He knows how important he is now and in the future.  Continued work, patience, and trust in the manager will take Batshuayi to a top EPL striker and this initial period will be soon forgotten.  He was always purchased with potential in mind.  He had a good goal return for Olympique Marseille but also scored lot of scrappy goals and got more touches than you’ll get in the Premier League. Watch the player and manager throughout the weeks, and you’ll see a healthy relationship.

B. Stewart & J Cooperstein

Carefree, Wherever We May Be!