Bolton 0-4 Chelsea: easy win for Chelsea
Chelsea cruised past Bolton with goals from all of their front three, and Ramires’ first for the club.
Owen Coyle made two changes. Gretar Steinsson replaced Sam Ricketts at right-back, whilst Martin Petrov came in for Mark Davies. Petrov played on the left, with Matthew Taylor switching to the right.
Carlo Ancelotti travelled without Frank Lampard, and so Jon Obi Mikel returned and played in his usual holding position.
The game was a fairly classic match between a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3. Chelsea were better at retaining the ball in the centre of the pitch, whilst Bolton looked to get the ball out wide, and played longer passes towards their front two.
Mikel and Essien
As so often in those situations, the key play is the ’spare’ man in the 4-3-3, which was Mikel. Bolton tried to deal with him by instructing Johan Elmander to drop onto him when Bolton lost the ball, but this was done half-heartedly and Mikel simply moved into space to receive the ball. His effort in moving into space was certainly greater than Elmander’s effort at closing him down.
From there he played short, simple passes to Ramires and Michael Essien, who were involved in a 2 v 2 battle against Fabrice Muamba and Stuart Holden, and simply showed themselves to be better players. Holden and Muamba often came too high up the pitch and presented space for Chelsea to exploit between the lines – either with one of the midfielders moving forward, or one of the forward players dropping deep. Essien moved forward particularly well.
Bolton poor passing
Bolton frequently let themselves down with sloppy passing and poor touches – the first goal, scored by Didier Drogba with a phenomenal long-range strike – a good example. Zat Knight’s slow pass across the back four meant Steinsson quickly came under pressure and lost the ball, which fell to Drogba in acres of space.
Credit should go to Chelsea for their pressing, of course (more on that later) but Knight had time on the ball, so it was only Steinsson who was under any pressure. No side should be so vulnerable to being closed down that they give the ball away so cheaply in a dangerous area, and though it may seem harsh to place such blame on the defence for such a tremendous goal, that just summed up Bolton’s performance with the ball – not precise enough. Later on, Kevin Davies’ ludicrous misplaced pass in the second half resulted in Chelsea’s third goal, which was effectively game over.
Chelsea were very impressive, however. Drogba looked sharper, Nicolas Anelka’s confidence has returned, Florent Malouda had a good game too. More impressive was the way they combined, their movement into space and Drogba and Anelka’s runs in behind the defence – it was much more the Chelsea of the first few games of the season, where they seemed to have goal options from all over the place.
Support from full-back was sporadic – generally Ashley Cole or Jose Bosingwa took it in turns to go forward – but then Chelsea took the lead so early on, that it was unlikely they were going to push forward too much. This did help them stretch the play, though, allowing the wide forwards into the box to take up goalscoring positions, whilst also forcing Bolton’s wide players back – Petrov is not a particularly impressive player defensively.
Chelsea solid across pitch
Bolton also struggled because their strikers didn’t bully Chelsea’s centre-backs as much as they would have liked – Elmander won one of five aerial contests, Davies won three out of six. The way to get at John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic is clearly with pace and trickery – in the air, there are fewer better centre-back pairings around.
The defending started from the front of the pitch, however. Drogba, Anelka and Malouda started the pressure from high up (rather than the wide players dropping level with the midfield) and as result Chelsea won the ball back quicker. There seems to be a pattern recently that sides lacking a bit of confidence or form are capable of picking up their performances when they have a more positive attitude without the ball – Liverpool fans will testify – and the result here was that Bolton were unable to play their passing game. When they did get possession, they moved the ball quickly to the flanks, as shown below, but aside from a couple of early crosses involving Taylor, they showed little creativity.
There wasn’t a single area of the pitch where Chelsea didn’t outclass Bolton – even down to the goalkeepers, where Petr Cech made a couple of impressive saves and Jussi Jaaskelainen should have done better with at least two Chelsea goals. Ancelotti’s side looked back to their old self – defensively solid, dangerous on the counter-attack and capable of simply overpowering opponents.Bolton 0-4 Chelsea: easy win for Chelsea