Chelsea looked the brightest they had in the whole of pre-season, as they took on Serie A side Udinese in a friendly. It was a good night’s work for Thomas Tuchel’s side, who were dominant in a 3-1 victory, a score line that could have been much higher.
Chelsea have looked inconsistent in their pre-season to say the least. However, the team’s performance against Udinese last Friday gave the manager a lot more to smile about. Chelsea saw off the tie against the top-flight Italian side quite comfortably, with an energetic performance from start to finish.
Tuchel went with an attacking line of Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount, as well as giving new defender Kalidou Koulibaly his first start for the Blues. Many regular first-team starters sat this game out as another friendly with Udinese was to be played the following day behind closed doors. It became apparent that Tuchel wanted majority of his players that started the game, to see out the whole 90 minutes.
Chelsea XI: (3-4-3)
Mendy; Azpilicueta ©, Thiago Silva, Koulibaly, Emerson, James, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso, Havertz, Sterling, Mount
Arrizabalaga; Emerson, Gilmour, Kenedy, Hudson-Odoi, Vale
Udinese XI: (5-3-2)
Silvestri; Soppy, Benkovic, Bijol, Masina, Udogie, Pererya, Makengo, Walace, Success, Deulofeu
Padelli, Piana, Festy, Lovric, Abankwah, Nuytinck, Perez, Palumbo, Ebosse, Samardzic, Nestorovski, Pussetto, Guessand, Cocetta, Pafundi
As the game kicked off, Chelsea looked a much-improved team to the one that had been swept aside by Arsenal a few days earlier. In the opening minutes, N’Golo Kante looked like the best version of himself. He ran tirelessly from box to box, putting in timely challenges and pressing high. There was a big penalty shout early on after Havertz was challenged in the box, the referee however dismissed the German’s appeals.
England team-mates Mount and Sterling provided the first chance of the game. Mount found Sterling with a timely pass, allowing Sterling free on goal in the area, but Udinese goal-keeper Marco Silvestri was quick to block Sterling’s effort.
20 minutes in, Kante’s hard work was rewarded. He drove from the midfield and continued until he reached the outside of the box, where all of the Udinese players appeared to back off him. He struck the ball beautifully with his left foot. It struck past the goalkeeper and went in off the base of the post. Chelsea found themselves 1-0 up inside the first half an hour.
As clock ticked on in the first half, the front three grew into the game. Mount, Havertz and Sterling looked to have developed an excellent understanding between each other as they picked up space and began to find each other in the box. Sterling made positive runs from the get-go, often picked out by the defenders as well as his fellow attackers. The forward play from Chelsea looked quick, fluid, and sharp. They looked like they were a team capable of scoring a considerable number of goals.
Raheem Sterling netted his first goal in Chelsea Blue as the clock ticked towards 40 minutes. An excellent pass was made from Jorginho, who also had a stellar game. He found Sterling, who scrambled home the rebound after his first shot was saved Silvestri.
Kalidou Koulibaly looked right at home in his new shade of Blue, as he made some excellent challenges and looked ever-present in the back line.
Chelsea’s score-line began to reflect their positive play. That was until the hosts pulled one back against the run of play before half-time. Former Watford forward Gerard Deulofeu turned in the rebound from Roberto Pererya’s initial shot
Chelsea continued to dominate the game after half-time. Sterling again looked like a bright spark, making positive runs forward and linking up well with Mount and Havertz. A great chance fell to Havertz at around 57 minutes after some lovely exchanges between Sterling and Alonso. The flag denied Havertz from extending the Blues’ lead.
Sterling continued to wreak havoc for the Udinese defence. He had a great effort that rattled back off the post as the game reached the hour mark.
The Blues continued to dictate the game and should have made more of the number of chances and possession they had. The occasional threat did come from Udinese every so often, but Edouard Mendy remained to have a quiet evening.
When the 70-minute mark hit, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Emerson and Harvey Vale all saw some action, as Havertz, Reece James and Kalidou Koulibaly made way. Shortly after, Jorginho and Sterling were also replaced, by Billy Gilmour and Kenedy respectively
Mason Mount was the only player of the starting front 3 that saw out the whole 90 minutes, however, he looked impressive, and was at the heart of Chelsea’s attacking play. For all their dominance in the game, it took Chelsea until the 90th minute to extend their lead back to 2 goals.
Mount was floating around in-front of goal and found himself in the right place at the right time to tap home Callum Hudson-Odoi’s low ball into the box.
The game ended 3-1 to Chelsea, although it must be said that it doesn’t quite reflect the true story of the game. Tuchel had plenty to be pleased about. There was, however, the frustrating fact that so many chances had been created by his team and that they hadn’t been converted.