Stamford Bridge youngster’s performance was a rare positive in tepid Champions League display.
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Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti selected a strong side at the Stade Vélodrome, with the 17 year-old Josh McEachran by far the least experienced player in his team.
Although the Blues had already won Group F, Ancelotti was clearly attempting to reverse Chelsea’s poor recent form, but Marseille had other ideas.
They dominated the match almost from the outset, but also had the officials to thank for denying Chelsea two clear penalties which surely would have altered the outcome of the match.
These Opta diagrams indicate where the match was won and lost, and how McEachran showed he could be ready for more regular first team football at Stamford Bridge.
1. Chelsea full backs pinned in their own half.
Such was Marseille’s intense pressing game from the off that neither of Chelsea’s full backs were able to contribute meaningfully to attacks.
Jose Bosingwa played the first 80 minutes before being substituted for Patrick Van Aanholt, and in that time he only attempted one cross. It was unsuccessful.
With Ashley Cole rested, Paulo Ferreira was on the left hand side for the Blues, and he too only attempted one cross in the first 80 minutes, which was also unable to reach a Chelsea teammate.
Marseille scored in the 81st minute, and of course after that Chelsea became more ambitious, but by then it was too late.
With the Blues devoid of their usual threat from wide areas, much of their play came through the centre – and Marseille made a number of interceptions just outside their own box with Chelsea attempting to pass through the middle of the French side’s defence.
Chelsea’s inability to find the final ball was a credit to the French side’s magnificent discipline at the back, but Carlo Ancelotti is still used to seeing better from his team.
2. Didier Drogba subdued on his return to Marseille.
Didier Drogba has been in poor form for a while, and hasn’t scored from open play since October 3rd against Arsenal.
His emotional return to Marseille brought no joy as he seemed more desperate not to offend than to put in a good performance – lifting up OM players after crunching tackles he would usually be seen rolling around after.
He also failed to provide his usual excellence in his side’s build up play.
A less than 50% pass completion rate, and not one successful pass into an attacking area. Daniel Sturridge was far more effective when he replaced the Ivorian around the hour mark.
3. Marseille breach Chelsea defence once – and make them pay.
Despite Chelsea providing little attacking threat themselves, they were defending stoutly – almost certainly a result of the organisational skills and leadership of captain John Terry.
The French team only created one shooting opportunity in the box, thanks to a deflection which wrong-footed the Chelsea back line, and unfortunately for Carlo Ancelotti and his team, it resulted in a goal.
It was their only shot on target in the whole match.
Aside from that, they could only find space for a strike on goal from long range, and Petr Cech was only once in trouble – Mathieu Valbuena rattling the crossbar from 25 yards out.
Conversely, Steve Mandanda in the Marseille goal made four saves, and given the chances Chelsea created – and the inexplicable decisions not to award two penalties to the Blues, they can feel extremely unlucky.
4. Josh McEachran steps up to the plate.
It wasn’t all bad for Chelsea, and perhaps it’s nice to end on a positive note after a disappointing night for their fans.
Josh McEachran, the first player ever to play in the UEFA Champions League that was born after the tournament was created, gave a performance beyond his tender years.
He passed the ball more often than any other Chelsea player, and indeed completed more passes than any other Blues player even attempted – largely in attacking areas too.
McEachran also made a great effort to make always make himself available for his teammates to pass to.
The young Englishman ran 9780 metres, which was the most of any Chelsea player. As is illustrated below in this “passes received” figure, his efforts ensured his senior colleagues always had an option – no matter where they were on the pitch.
Finally a diagram to show just how well McEachran stepped up for Chelsea – when others around him were succumbing to the mental blockade Ancelotti hoped had passed.
Player influence refers to time on the ball, with the player’s name bigger and larger the more they participate in events such as passes, tackles, shots and interceptions.
Josh McEachran showed against Marseille that he can be relied upon away from home in the UEFA Champions League, and that is quite impressive indeed for a 17 year-old.
Although he still has room to grow physically before he will be ready to battle in the Premier League at the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers, with each performance he is making it difficult for Chelsea to leave him out.
Images courtesy of the quite excellent Total Football Champions League iPhone app.
Article originally published on Three Lion Cubs
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