Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Five thoughts on Newcastle 2 Chelsea 1

Chelsea suffered their first defeat of the season against Newcastle in an engrossing affair at St. James Park. Here are five thoughts on the match.

Sissoko now one of the premier midfielders in the league

Moussa Sissoko has been Newcastle’s best player by far in their resurgence up the table. The Frenchman combines athleticism with the ability to make a decisive contribution in the final third. His runs through the midfield were crucial in both Newcastle goals, but just as pertinent were his final balls. There is an element of Yaya Toure in Sissoko’s game. If Newcastle’s stalwart keeps up his form for the rest of the season expect Mike Ashley to pocket a hefty sum as Sissoko gets enticed by a bigger team.

Profligacy costs Chelsea more than Matic absence

Whether Sissoko would have been as decisive if Nemanja Matic was playing for Chelsea is a moot point. Jose Mourinho’s men had 66% of the possession, had 10 corners to one while outshooting their hosts by 26 to nine. Jack Colback and Cheick Tiote deserve immense credit for their work rate as the defensive screen of Newcastle’s midfield, but the truth is Chelsea could have been well clear before the Magpies broke the deadlock. Eden Hazard, Oscar and most concerning for Chelsea - Diego Costa - failed to capitalize on some good opportunities. If anyone other than John Obi Mikel was left unmarked on a set piece with an open goal, we would be talking about a different result. An important reminder for Mourinho, that it was the lack of ruthlessness that cost Chelsea in last season’s title race.

Cisse reaching peak form

Papiss Cisse’s remarkable entry into the Premier League during the latter half of the 2011–12 season has largely been written off on the basis of his subsequent form. It’s often forgotten that Cisse also had a consistent scoring record in the Bundesliga. The Senegalese striker might not be the feared marksman now that he was then, but he is gaining a semblance of form. It is telling that he has now scored three braces this season coming off the bench. Maybe his late runs into the box are best utilized against tiring defences, whereas he is a tad predictable to defend against when starting matches. If Cisse maintains his form, the Toon Army can look forward to a comfortable season in the top half of the table.

Cabella needs to work harder for the team

There was much excitement when Remy Cabella was signed by Newcastle in the summer. The Frenchman can be a match-winner with his fancy footwork and an eye for a pass that catches defences flat-footed. Translating that potential into consistent success in the Premier League requires a lot of hard work. Cabella need only look at the example of another mercurial Frenchman at St. James Park. Hatem Ben Arfa has all the skills an attacker can dream of, but without the right work ethic he has been on a downward slope for more than a year. The former Montpellier man does seem eager to make an impression, but he has to fulfil his defensive responsibilities as well. Daryl Janmaat was exposed time and again on Newcastle’s right throughout the first half because Cabella offered him no protection at all. If Chelsea had their shooting boots on, Cabella’s transgressions could have cost the Magpies.

Chelsea suffer the North-eastern blues

During Jose Mourinho’s debut season in the Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson had quipped that Chelsea’s title challenge would collapse when the Blues visit the northern clubs. The prophecy was a spectacular failure as Chelsea ended up winning the league with a record points total suffering only one defeat through the campaign. While Mourinho won’t be too worried after their first league setback, he has had difficult results against the North-east clubs since coming back to England. Last season saw a defeat against Newcastle and a first ever home loss in the Premier League to Sunderland. This time around, an eight-point lead has been whittled down to three after getting only one point in their visits to the North east. The good news is that Chelsea don’t have to visit any northern teams for the rest of the campaign, but Mourinho will hope that his troubles on Tyneside and Wearside don’t haunt him come May.