Written by David Robinson
The first Monday Night Football of the Premier League Season saw Chelsea host West Ham at Stamford Bridge. It was the first game of Antonio Conte’s era and it turned out to be a winning start following a late Diego Costa strike. Hazard opened the scoring from the spot before James Collins hit a fine volley to level things up in the second half before the former Atletico Madrid man, who I think should have been sent off, typically got away with it and won the game in bullish fashion. In short I thought Chelsea deserved their win, they probed at the Hammers throughout and had some largely positive spells without really looking like running away with it. A draw would have been a smash and grab for Bilic’s men but under the circumstances that they face with a relatively depleted squad, they put up a good fight in their season opener. I look at 3 things we looked to have learned from this game.
credit John Seb Barber
1. Now is the time to play West Ham
West Ham made a very decent start to the game and looked tidy in possession with a set of players more than capable of facing a side gunning for the title. As the game went on they lost control and with their best side not out, they got exposed. Notably the right back Antonio made a poor error which led to the opener highlighting that he is not a right back. With Andre Ayew having to go off injured it’s a worrying time for the Hammers after a cracking season last time round, they don’t look in a better position at the moment. Couple this with two Europa League qualifiers in the next two weeks which could take its toll on the squad which is thin as it is. Payet is slowly being introduced back in so the likes of Bournemouth and Manchester City, West Ham’s next two opponents, could be licking their lips at the prospect of playing West Ham at the moment. That’s not to say they have a bad team but it’s looking like the best time to play them.
2. Why Kante will be pivotal
Last night we say the Frenchman’s debut. He was effectively Leicester’s main man last season even though he was overlooked by Mahrez and Vardy at times. An expensive transfer paid for him by the Blues but they will be happy with what they saw last night. It was a typically quiet match in a way but Kante doesn’t get involved with anything complicated going forwards. He broke up the play well at times and it was no coincidence that West Ham started to suffocate in possession. Not only does last night’s performance breed confidence but crucially he gives his manager options in central midfield. Kante should be the main man there with Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas fighting to play alongside him. This is perfect for the Italian Coach as both are completely different players and they therefore can be used differently but effectively over the season according to each game plan. With an awful lot of high profile business going on in the league, Kante may again go under the radar as the best buy over the whole summer.
credit Ben Sutherland
3. Hazard more than a match winner
The Belgium winger put in a man of the match display which is exactly what he needed after a torrid campaign last time round. The 25 year old has incredible talent and even yesterday he can be a frustrating watch. After he scored the penalty he seemed to drift back into a mode where he lacks cut throat and doesn’t go on and hurt the opposition in the same manner, something that Gary Neville eluded to in the post match analysis. As shown a couple of seasons ago, Hazard can not only be a match winner, he can be a league winner! His individual brilliance can get Chelsea plenty of goals but as it stands, he needs to up his game even after last night. The same form that earned him the league’s player of the season award a couple of seasons ago would be huge for Chelsea. If Conte can get this out of him they should be considered title contenders for sure however if Hazard doesn’t show more killer instinct then you would suspect the Blues might not have enough compared to their rivals.
What did you make of last nights game? Were there any other key points from it? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Edmund Gali