Chelsea vs West ham: Talking Points

Published 08/16/2016, 3:51 PM EDT


Antonio Conte’s first match in charge of Chelsea in the Premier League ended on a successful note as a penalty from Eden Hazard and a late strike from Diego Costa saw off a decent fight from West Ham United at Stamford Bridge.

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Chelsea came into the game with an impressive record of not losing the last 13 season openers, but the opponents in West Ham surely made them work hard to earn all 3 points for the 14th occasion.

Let us take a look at all the major talking points from the encounter at Stamford Bridge.

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Hazard and Diego Costa look much sharper

Chelsea had a rather forgettable season last time around to say the least. Chelsea made an awful mess of the defence of their Premier League title as problems on and off the field made them look shabby on most occassions. Their total tally of 50 points also made them the least points scored by a defending champions in the Premier League.

And one name that was talked about for the lack of performance was that of Eden Hazard. The Belgian was an important figure in Jose Mourinho’s title winning return to the Premier League but was a shadow of himself last season. Going by the season opener against Westham, Hazard has put that season behind him and looked much effective for Conte. It was a big question whether Conte can bring back the best out of Hazard and the Belgian, who had an impressive Uefa Euro tournament in France, backed that up with an impressive display in the first game. Eventually he became the first scorer under the Conte era as he confidently thumped in a penalty in the second half. Only Cesar Azpilicueta had more touches than Eden Hazard in the entire game. This shows a lot about the involvement the Begian had in yesterdays match.

Another name that had a notable dip in form is Diego Costa. The Spaniard made more headlines for the wrong reasons last season and had question marks about his future under Conte ahead of the season. But the striker showed more promise and hunger this time out and was much sharper. Costa ended the game as the hero of the Bridge as his late precisive shot proved to be the decisive strike as Chelsea won the game 2-1.

Costa was much more involved in open play and his link up play with the midfielders gave glimpses of why he is considered a deadly frontman.

Kante is a Good Signing

N’golo Kante won lots of praise last season for being a pivotal member of Leicester City’s incredible title run. His transfer to Chelsea made a lot of headlines and many believed this to be a vital signing to the season. If anyone had any doubts about Kante settling in, he has put those doubts to rest with his debut for Chelsea. Kante made his presence felt fairly early in the game as he found himself in the referee’s book as early as the 3rd minute. But that certainly was an indication that Kante meant business. He looked so comfortable in the centre of the park, mopping up all the threat West Ham were about to throw at Chelsea. He, along with Nemanja Matic held the shape of the team together and made their presence felt in the game.

Kante’s start to his Chelsea career has been an impressive one with him racking up a 100% accuracy in the passes made by him in the first half itself. Though he is not in the same glamour pages as the players like Hazard often fit in, Kante’s workmanship has certainly won him more followers at the Stamford Bridge.

West Ham are an entirely different side with Payet on the field

There is absolutely no doubt that West Ham United’s star man is their Frenchman Dimitri Payet. He caught everyone’s eye last season with his impressive skills on the ball and with his unmatched brilliance from deadball situations. And it was an expected thing that West Ham will need their superstar to step up this season as well. Keeping hold of Payet was Bilic’s big challenge and Westham have done that well so far. Payet didnt start the game as he joined the team late after an exhausting Euro competition. But Bilic was forced to use Payet in the second half and his arrival certainly changed the way Westham United played. Though he didn’t have a goal or an assist to show for yesterday, Payet certainly injected a much needed dose of creativity and positive style to the Hammers’ game. Andy Carrol found himself isolated for most parts of the game up the field, but the arrival of Payet certainly gave him much more service and deliveries to make an impact. And this positive vibe came in handy as West Ham equalised completely against the run of play even without being much of a threat throughout the game.

The Hammers ended the game with only 38% possession and most creative part of those 38 came up only after Payet was introduced in the 67th minute by Bilic.

Ayew’s injury

West Ham United have been quite busy in the transfer window. Though all eyes were on whether Dimitri Payet will leave the Hammers, Slaven Bilic has made some important signings to his roster. Hammers have made upto 8 signings and the latest one was the bigger one of Andre Ayew from Swansea for a record £20 million.

The away fans were all excited to see his name in the starting lineup for the season opener as Ayew had an impressive first season with Swansea. But the joy was short lived, as the record signing limped off in the 36th minute. Ayew had a sharp stop while chasing Eden Hazard and that was a big indication as to how much the attacker felt the trouble in his muscle.

The Ghana international recieved treatment on the field but was in no shape to continue his debut for the club. However, we are yet to know the extent to which the thigh muscle injury will affect Ayew to sit out of the side. In the post match press conference, Bilic himself said that they will have to wait to know how bad this injury is for their new signing.

Conte effect is slowly but surely taking place

The dramatic sacking of their ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho last season and the fill in job by Guus Hiddink, along with a return of Jose to the Premier League with their rivals Manchester United. It has been a difficult few months for Chelsea fans. They needed someone to lift them up from the disappointments of last season. The naming of Antonio Conte as their manager certainly raised a few pulses and the season opener at Stamford Bridge has made sure that they certainly have exciting times ahead.

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Though the question of whether Chelsea can still push for a fight for a title will remain, the result and the performances on opening day has certainly showed glimpses of positive signs. Though Chelsea were not so deadly with their dominant possession, their style of play and the confidence of individuals like Hazard, Costa, Willian etc has certainly showed improvements and positive signs.

Though the Italian has not brought in his renowned 3-5-2 formation to the Stamford Bridge, the style of play and the addition to the team like that of Kante has made it clear that Chelsea are all set to change themselves from last season.

Along with this, the Chelsea fans will be happy to see an energetic and animated manager in their touchline. Conte certainly is an abundance of energy and noise in the touchline as the camera-crew were kept busy in the sidelines at all times. His celebration of the winner and his enthusiasm is something that will reflect on the way his side perform on the field. We have seen these in Juve and with the Italian national side, and the london club faithful will be hoping for such a positive vibe to take over the players and the fans and the way the game is being played.

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Thrishal Sunil

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