Thursday 18 July 2019

Five things we learned as Michy Batshuayi inspires Chelsea to thrilling comeback win against Watford

Chelsea's Michy Batshuayi celebrates scoring their fourth goal
Chelsea's Michy Batshuayi celebrates scoring their fourth goal

Luke Brown and Jack Austin

Chelsea came from behind to beat Watford in a thrilling match at Stamford Bridge.

The Premier League champions were a long way from their best but still managed to emerge with all three points to keep in contention with the Manchester clubs.

Pedro gave the hosts the lead with a stunning strike but goals from Abdoulaye Doucouré and Roberto Pereyra saw Watford take a deserved lead.

Chelsea were in trouble but late in the second-half substitute Michy Batshuayi finished from close-range, while defender Cesar Azpilicueta pounced at the left-hand post with time running out with a vital goal.

Batshuayi then scored a second in injury time, as Antonio Conte’s side steal all three points..

Here are five things we learned from the game.

Chelsea won but they are short of confidence

Against Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday, Chelsea sat so deep that at times it seemed like the Italian side were the home team. It was the same against Watford. For much of the game, Silva’s side enjoyed the majority of possession, with Chelsea happy to sit deep and rush forward on the counter-attack.

Injuries to a number of midfield players have forced Conte to adapt his tactics, but this ultra-conservative approach isn’t doing him any favours and the lack of attacking play means that it’s difficult for his side to build any confidence.

It was telling that when Conte was forced to throw on Willian and Michy Batshuayi with Chelsea chasing the game, his team improved considerably. They began winning the midfield battle and scored three times in the last 20 minutes. His side are a long way from their form of last season and perhaps throwing more players further forward is the answer.

Hazard lacking consistency

Hopes were raised after his vital brace against Roma that Hazard was ready to hit the ground running for Chelsea, after returning from the injury that scuppered his pre-season.

But he is still a long way short of his title-winning form from last season. The Belgian looked lively on the counter-attack but kept drifting out of the game, leading to Morata looking frequently isolated at the top of Chelsea’s attacks.

He was well marshalled by Watford’s midfield throughout and visibly tired as the game went on. Chelsea need him back to his best sooner rather than later.

Watford could be best of the rest

Marco Silva has made a stunning start to life at Watford and could well see his side finish top of the mini league which excludes the ‘Big Six’.

That spot has so often been held by Everton with sides like West Ham and Southampton also sniffing around but with those three being nothing short of disappointing so far, there is an opening that Watford are keen to fill.

And that does not have to be the limit either. The way the Hornets dispatched of Arsenal last weekend and their ability to compete with the champions this time around shows that they, more than any other team in the league, have shown the most ambition of breaking into that top six.

Pedro delivers a good performance

While Hazard struggled and Morata failed to make too much of an impression, Pedro impressed for Chelsea and did very well going forward.

He opened the scoring with a fantastic goal reminiscent of the one he scored against Tottenham last season and was a nuisance to Watford’s defence throughout.

He also assisted Batshuayi’s all-important second-half equaliser. It was the 21st goal he has been involved in for Chelsea across all competitions in 2017 – more than any other Chelsea player.

Cleverley coming of age

It’s late, very late in fact, but Tom Cleverley finally looks like he is becoming the player which Manchester United thought he would be five years ago. There’s always been the sense that the Englishman had the talent but a series of gaffs, a severe drop in confidence and not being wanted by United and then Everton damaged any prospect of that coming through.

However, under Silva he is flourishing. His winner against Arsenal last weekend capped off a brilliant performance and he was integral against for Watford’s equaliser at Stamford Bridge.

After a few decent long-range efforts – including a fierce free-kick – Cleverley insisted on Jose Holebas’ long throw, rather than a quick one from Roberto Pereyra. Abdoulaye Decoure did the rest.

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