How Chelsea’s Great Weakness Has Become Their Biggest Strength

The Blues are excelling at set-pieces in both boxes, having added key personnel in the playing ranks and a new coach to work alongside Lampard

Tammy Abraham may have earned the plaudits with his two late goals but Chelsea’s 3-0 win over West Ham was a story of how decisive set-pieces can be when all else is failing.

The Blues were desperate for the win having lost two in a row and came up against in-form London rivals who beat them twice last season.

The Hammers were able to dominate Chelsea for large spells at Stamford Bridge but set-pieces were the difference at both ends.

Having been their great weakness last season – and having cost them against the Hammers in July – set-pieces are now among Chelsea’s biggest strengths.

Part of that can be put down to the quality of delivery, from Mason Mount in particular. Thiago Silva met his beautifully whipped cross for his second goal of the season and, in the process, opened the scoring on Monday night.

Up until to that point, David Moyes’ side hadn’t let in a goal from that kind of situation this season but they came up against an increased threat versus Chelsea.

And it isn’t only Mount, as Ben Chilwell, Reece James and Hakim Ziyech have also been proficient when stepping up to take set plays.

Furthermore, the players attacking the deliveries are deadly. Kurt Zouma’s four headed goals mark him out ahead of his peers, while Abraham and Olivier Giroud have been significant threats in the air.

This season Chelsea have scored eight goals from corners – which is more than any other side in the Premier League – and three of those have been from Mount deliveries.

Having played just 14 games, Chelsea have already scored more from corners than they did in the whole of last season’s league campaign.

Many of the same players making an impact towards the opposition goal have also been decisive at the other end in defending dead balls.

Zouma’s aerial leap makes him particularly dominant but Silva’s ability to lead his defensive line has also made a huge difference.

The signing of Chilwell adds another big presence in the box, with fellow new signing Edouard Mendy specialising in collecting crosses with his stature and leap.

Mendy’s abilities contrast starkly with record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga, who fell short in that regard last year.

Lampard said afterwards that the quality of the club’s recruitment was a simple factor in snuffing out what has been one of West Ham’s biggest threats.

“They were great,” Lampard said. “Thiago was the leader and I also mention Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta]. The full-backs have to defend their zone because they [West Ham] are crossing again and again into lots of areas and they are very good at set-pieces.

“It is something we have worked on a lot in training and personnel like Thiago help a lot. Some of our defending of the box this season has been really good and consistent and that has to stay, particularly against opponents like we have seen tonight.”

Much had been made of Chelsea’s £220 million ($275m) spending splurge during the off-season but with Timo Werner and Kai Havertz both losing form of late, and Ziyech injured, another signing has made the difference.

The Blues added first-team coach Anthony Barry to their tight-knit group after glowing references from assistant head coach Jody Morris, who had studied for his UEFA Pro Licence alongside him.

Arriving from Wigan, Barry helped his new club work on their set-piece weakness, which was a focus of the short pre-season the Blues had.

Indeed, he is more than a specialist coach, but his addition shows the proactive thoughts that Lampard had about resolving issues behind the scenes from last season.

Despite climbing into fifth place, Chelsea know they have plenty of problems remaining ahead of a trip to Arsenal on Boxing Day. Chilwell went off injured against West Ham while James is still suffering with a knee problem.

Their two new German attackers aren’t creating or scoring enough but in the meantime they can fall back on their newfound superpower: the set play.

source:- goal


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