Chelsea destroyed Stoke in our easiest victory of the season so far. The match was all but over as a contest within ten minutes thanks to two early goals from Rudiger and Drinkwater.
Chelsea lined up in a 3-4-3 formation, Hazard was rested, so Willian and Pedro flanked Morata. Christensen returned, but only to the bench, so Rudiger retained his place in the starting line up. It was him who headed us into a second minute lead, after Willian curled a free kick 30 yards from goal on the touchline by the west stand to the far post for the German international to despatch a convincing header into the shed end goal.
Stoke had rested a lot of players, and also had some unavailable, Kurt Zouma being one due to the terms of his loan. Regardless of the extra rest for some of their key players before their new years day fixture with Newcastle, this was surely not what Mark Hughes envisioned, or needed. They were two down after nine minutes as Danny Drinkwater hit a superb volley with the outside of his right foot into the far top corner from just left of centre on the edge of the area.
Stoke weren’t getting tight anywhere on the pitch, and their 4-3-3 shape was effectively a 4-5-1, and at times, it resembled a back six, as Ramadan on the left, and Diouf on the right were pinned back by Moses and Alonso respectively. This consequently left Azpilicueta and Rudiger with plenty of space, and Azpilicueta joining our forays forward increasingly during the half was pulling Charlie Adam wide to deal with it. Adam was quite possibly the only Stoke player, aside from keeper Butland, to come out of this showing with any credit. His attempts to apply a plaster to a gaping wound in midfield were not helped by his teammates. Berahino up front did no tracking back whatsoever, and was often seen strolling into position. Fletcher and Afellay sat off Chelsea in the centre, while Kante and Drinkwater continued to distribute the ball wide, and into Willian or Morata dropping off. The little possession Stoke had lacked any creativity with Shaqiri and Choupo-Moting sitting on the bench.
If it wasn’t already, the match as a contest was well and truly killed off after Pedro netted our third in the twenty-third minute. No pressure in midfield allowed Drinkwater plenty of time to pick out Willian, who had moved into the centre on the edge of the area. Pedro ran into Willian’s position in the inside right channel, and His fantastic touch past Tymon as he opened his body and changed pace in one move after receiving Willian’s pass allowed him time to shoot, and he despatched low past Butland with his right foot.
The only down side, if there was one, from a Chelsea perspective was Morata’s inability to convert one of his chances. Butland did well to stand up to save a one on one both in the first half and the second half, and before the break he advanced quick enough to prevent Morata getting a shot away as he’d broken into the box again.
Stoke got no better in the second half, but Chelsea lacked the impetus of the first half, and for twenty minutes or so the match resembled a pre-season friendly. Chelsea could score more, but how many did they want to get? That was how the match now felt. Courtois was called into action once, as Adam pounced on a poor ball out of defence to play in Berahinho, but it was the Chelsea keeper’s turn to stand up well to a one-v one chance, and he batted the effort away.
Chelsea continued to control possession without any real pressure anywhere in midfield from Stoke, at least not until we approached their penalty area. Pedro fired over from a corner, before Conte rang the changes. Bakayoko came on for Kante, while Bastshuayi replaced Morata. As usual the Belgian forward looked lively, and displayed some nice link up play with Willian. One such passage of play saw him play the ball through for the Brazilian, who was brought down inside the box. Batshuayi grabbed the ball from Butland, but Willian would be the player set to power Chelsea’s fourth down the middle. Another impressive display from Willian in which he thoroughly deserved his goal. Drinkwater was also highly impressive, displaying a good range of passing, as well as good positional sense when receiving the ball. He did his defensive duties well also, and his fantastic volley summed up his performance. Drinkwater played a part in our fifth as well. He played the ball forward in the direction of Willian, but the interception fell to Chelsea’s other sub, Zappacosta, who fired low past the beleaguered Butland.
This was not one of those matches where you could say the score line was not a fair reflection of the match. If anything we deserved more against a woeful Stoke side.
Chelsea (3-4-3) 5 (Rudiger 3, Drinkwater 9, Pedro, 23, Willian 73 pen, Zappacosta 88)
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill ©, Rudiger;
Moses, (Zappacosta 57), Kante, (Bakayoko 65), Drinkwater, Alonso;
Willian, Morata, (Batshuayi 71)
Stoke (4-5-1) 0
Butland; Edwards, Cameron, Wimmer, Tymon;
Diouf, Fletcher, Afellay, (Ngoy 71) Adam, (Choupo-Moting 81), Ramadan;