Chelsea booked their place in the 4th round of the FA Cup with a comfortable 4-0 victory against League Two side Morecambe at Stamford Bridge.
First half goals from Mason Mount and Timo Werner put the Premier League side two goals up at the break, and second half strikes from Callum Hudson-Odoi and Kai Havertz confirmed victory for Chelsea.
Despite the lower league opposition, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard played a strong side, and in doing so it allowed the home side easy control of the match due to the vast differences in quality of the two sides.
Havertz and Hudson-Odoi shine brightest
After linking up for a late consolation goal last week in the home defeat to Manchester City, it was once again Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi who made their claim for more regular game time by producing in front of goal once again.
The pair, who have also linked up for goals this season against West Bromwich Albion and Krasnodar, both picked up assists in the first half before getting on the scoresheet themselves in the first half. Both players are starting to show what they can offer when given the game time in positions they are comfortable in, with Hudson-Odoi given a rare opportunity in his preferred left wing position, and Havertz given more licence in and around the penalty area to add extra goal threat to the team.
The main element that made Havertz stand out in the game was his aerial ability inside the penalty area. After initially struggling in the first half, particularly in the defensive phase of the pitch, he came to life towards the end of the first half as he set up Timo Werner with a cushioned header into his path. His connection with his fellow German will prove to be decisive if they start up top together for Chelsea, and having Havertz alongside Werner will surely help the struggling striker improve in a Chelsea shirt. Havertz's goal late on, a low header into the corner from a Cesar Azpilicueta cross, also showed his capabilities to score goals and get into dangerous positions, qualities that made him one of the most productive players in the Bundesliga last season for Bayer Leverkusen.
Hudson-Odoi, meanwhile, is starting to show the level of form that his potential has promised, and he is turning that into more goal contributions. After a goal against Manchester City last week and an assist against Arsenal the previous week, the winger is starting to show he's got more strings to his bow, and right now he's arguably Chelsea's most in form player. Setting up Mason Mount's opener and finishing off Hakim Ziyech's fine floated through ball, he is showing greater intent to be involved in the play in the Chelsea team and is desperately in need of regular game time to kick on from here and possibly get back into the England squad. With Christian Pulisic lacking that attacking edge in recent weeks, with the American having just the two goals and no assists to his name in all competitions this season, it is hard to argue against Hudson-Odoi deserving a place in the starting place against Fulham on Friday night.
Disappointing lack of Academy talent on show
Something that makes the FA Cup third round so exciting is the potential for young players that would not otherwise be given a chance to have a run out for the first team, especially against lower league opposition. However, despite inviting a number of academy players to train with the first team this week, only Tino Anjorin was involved in the 20 man squad, coming on for Callum Hudson-Odoi on 80 minutes.
This was disappointing for many of the fans for numerous reasons: there are several players in the academy that are deserving of showing their worth; a lot of the first team players have been underperforming recently and are not necessarily deserving of playing every game; and it suggests Lampard has turned his back on the mentality of his original appointment as manager which was to give young players a chance and not be over-reliant on new signings like other managers have done in the past.
The frustration was summed up well by CarefreeYouth, who posted on Twitter after the team was announced:
'I’m angry and upset about the lack of academy players in this match day squad. I understand the reasoning and form and want to win like everyone, but I can’t moan at it when Mourinho, Conte and Sarri let me down then turn a blind eye about it now. Same feeling. I’m going to move past it and just hope we win but with five allowed subs against a league two team at home I felt it was a perfect opportunity even if they aren’t brought on.' (Source: Twitter).
Would the result have been impacted that greatly had Tino Livramento or Lewis Bate been given a chance to start? Or if Jude Soonsup-Bell was on the bench and came on for the last 15 minutes like Tammy Abraham did? Not really, and it is a shame because there probably will not be an opportunity to see these players play for Chelsea this season.
- What needs to change for the must-win local derby against Fulham on Friday?
While this game will not tell us much about how Chelsea need to approach upcoming Premier League and Champions League fixtures, it does show what the team needs to base itself around. In the first half, Chelsea struggled to find any rhythm due to too much emphasis on taking long shots into blocked penalty areas, playing crosses into players that are less than 6ft tall, and passing to where players are standing rather than anticipating movement and playing pass and move.
In the second half, as Morecambe tired, Chelsea found more rhythm, finding more space and playing more through Billy Gilmour, which in itself allowed Kai Havertz to play higher up the pitch to get on the end of chances. Hakim Ziyech also moved inside from the right at bit more, as evidenced from his assist for the third goal, while Timo Werner looked more confident from his goal and moved between wide and central areas to be more involved in play.
In the Fulham game, it would make sense for N'Golo Kante to have a partner in the base of the midfield following his torrid time as a lone defensive midfielder against Manchester City. Gilmour showed today his capabilities in that role, and would be deserving to keep his place in the side alongside Kante, with Chelsea reverting to a 4231 formation. Havertz's attacking capabilities have shown that he is far more effective behind the striker than as an 8, and would make an ideal partner for Werner. Then with Hakim Ziyech on the right and Hudson-Odoi on the left both cutting inside and creating chances, it could make for an exciting Chelsea side.
With a horrible run of fixtures coming up after the Fulham game, it is essential that Chelsea leave Craven Cottage with all three points, and this victory today against Morecambe should make them go into the game with more confidence.