Written by Neil Dawson
It was a game that gave us every available result and every available weather condition…the locusts thankfully remained in Africa and god-knows-where coronavirus is. The latest estimate is it’s surfaced in Surrey which is a worry for anyone intending on going to Old Trafford in the near future…
The pendulum in this game swung like it was on a small yacht in Storm Jorge but eventually the ultimate happened – nobody won. A fair result? Mmmm… at a stretch I guess but we had two fifteen-minute spells at the start of both halves….the rest was Chelsea if we are, to be honest.
Eddie once again rang the changes following a defeat and back came Fraser for Harry W, maybe because Lampard knows him so well, and in came Lewis Cook as Gosling paid the price for two poor games. Finally the more predictable return of Lerma for Surman. Would the formation be 4-3-3 or 4-5-1…. time would tell as the match went on…
The game started brilliantly for the hosts, and the pivotal player in the early exchanges was Philip Billing. He really should have scored twice…. or at least once and given King a goal but he shot too weakly at point-blank range the first time from Stacey’s cross and the second time he had King square with an open goal but opted for the more difficult near-post finish and didn’t complete it to his Scandinavian brother’s despair. There was a bridge built between Denmark and Sweden but today one was burnt between Denmark and Norway…
All the energy we put into these early bursts has to pay off…..else you get a leggy side looking a bit despondent. And we got a leggy side looking a bit despondent for the remainder of the half….chasing the ball against more technical opponents. It was all rather tedious as our decision not to press until Chelsea got close to our box meant when we did get the ball there was nobody other than Callum to loft it too and he was not as quick as either of his two markers. There was also a baffling period where we went for the very strange high ball to Fraser – presumably, because we figured Chelsea wouldn’t have worked on that in training…. he didn’t win any of the headers oddly so we stopped.
A goal was coming as we were being opened up, particularly behind Smith with King offering less defensive cover than Fraser on the other side… when it arrived it was unlucky, Ake claiming a push dived to head a wicked low cross and Giroud got his head to it first to head against the cross-bar, the ball came out to ALONSO who has a special left foot – and used it to effect to rifle past Ramsdale. Chelsea pushed for a killer second but the Bournemouth goal leads a charmed life with some superb blocking, one from Cook especially.
The attempts to break were substandard…. poor passing and control and the gulf between the sides looked alarming. There just weren’t enough bodies forwards to build any sort of cohesion.
HT Bournemouth 0 Chelsea 1
The second half saw the same fifteen-minute blitz the first half had shown, but with a very different outcome. It’s an odd game football as a side that looked like it had won a raffle to be on the same pitch as Chelsea took them apart for a short spell. The difference was Eddie had pushed the team up the pitch, asked them to take more gambles and told King and Fraser to play as forwards not full-back cover. Chelsea couldn’t cope with the quick passing and interchange and Lewis Cook started to pull the strings in midfield with some great passing. The press was high and Chelsea got boxed in and conceded two goals in three minutes.
First a sublime volleyed pass from Cook released King and from the resultant corner LERMA rose high to thump a header off Caballero’s hand into the roof of the net. Fraser the assist with the flag-kick. The ground erupted – Lerma’s first home goal (in his own net) well-received and his name rang out.
Better was to come – the team was on fire, energy levels high and the second followed quickly……… Jack Stacey timing his run to perfection to cross for Wilson to miscue but KING to follow up with an easy side-foot. The roof came off.
The pivotal moment came when Ake headed the ball back across goal from a set-piece but Wilson turned it onto Cabellero’s legs when you wondered why he didn’t put his weight through it. As ever with moments like this, it is almost like heads drop… The team started to sit deeper and deeper with even Wilson dropping back. Wave after wave of Chelsea attacks were either repelled, blocked – twice brilliantly from Stacey or Ramsdale saved, once brilliantly from Alonso.
King tired and was replaced by Stan and Cook made way soon after for Gosling. With Cook’s passing and Kings running gone we were settling in for a dogfight and an interminable period of football passed with us unable to even get the ball off the pitch let alone to one of our own players. Fingernails were bitten, rosary beads fingered (Leave it Snooty) heavens looked to – only to deluge hail – and finally the inevitable happened. It was cruel on Ramsdale who made a tremendous stop – too tremendous really as his firm hand pushed the ball to Alonso. The full-backs header was strong and Ramsdale prone on the ground but still he got to it… a split second earlier and we would have been talking about the double save of our lives… tragically and in keeping with the season he could only fingertip it agonisingly just inside the post and the points had gone.
Worse could have come with Alonso rising high to head agonisingly wide of the far post…… that would have been an unlikely hat-trick and a devastating blow but it wasn’t to be and a crucial point stayed in the bag.
FT Bournemouth 2 Chelsea 2
Ramsdale 7 – Some outstanding stops and generally safe
Stacey 7 – Good strong attacking and some excellent blocks.
Cook 7 – Good return and some classic defending
Ake 7 – Generally handled everything thrown at him with ease.
Smith 6 – Not as comfortable on left this time and beaten a lot.
Billing 6 – Missed the best chances and looked tired but kept at it.
Cook 6 – Anonymous first half but classy second half before tiring
Lerma 8 – A real leader in spirit and classy on the ball – took goal well.
Fraser 6 – Worked hard but distinct lack of quality
Wilson 6 – (See Fraser)
King 7 – Great running and ball movement.
MOM – Lerma – imperious in most that he does and bagged a goal too. I have a feeling it will be more of an affair than a relationship with the Columbian so let’s enjoy it.
It’s a funny game football. How does confidence and momentum effect on-field play? I think the difference between successful sides and non-successful is the ability to play each section of the game irrespective of the score. We have had great spells of doing this but not this season.
I liked both the formation and the selection today – it was modern and other than Brooks we now have our most talented players on the pitch starting. Our failing though is we still have to score three goals to win most games and that’s a tough ask in the Premier League.
Why is that the case? My opinion is what-ever formation we play we sit too deep, and have done so for eighteen months. The ability to spring and release King, Fraser and Wilson is an enticing one but the latter two don’t have the form or look to have their old speed. Too often the move breaks down on their control or being out-sprinted. King is different but he is one man. That means we don’t get out and when we don’t get out we expose our defence to endless probing. Again this would be ok (although a little dull) if we were actually a defensively drilled team but we have endless evidence to prove that is not the case. Give talented people the opportunity to sit in our lack of defensive know-how and they will score at least once -but probably two or three.
So for us the best form of defence is always attack so why we don’t leave people up the pitch is beyond me, particularly because when we do it is devastating (and always has been). You could understand the cautiousness if we kept clean sheets on the back of it but this simply isn’t the case. We need to press higher and be braver – it is our only chance.
That said we have taken four points against Chelsea – a better team than us. We showed in spells the spirit and energy needed to stay up and also some great passing and moving at times. The level the team is playing at is way higher than seven weeks ago when all looked doomed and we have winnable fixtures to come. The problem is we are playing well and not picking up points – and with Liverpool up next it is going to get stickier before it gets easier as it is unlikely they will lose twice in a week.
Individuals wise Stacey continues to impress – a very Eddie player, Lerma we are lucky to have and we saw flashes from Lewis Cook of the midfielder we and he needs to be. Still a long way to go and we should take heart from what could be a crucial point and learn the lesson that we need to attack to defend better.