If Chelsea are to make it to the fourth round of the FA cup this season, it will have to be via a reply after a showing devoid of invention in Norwich on Saturday evening. The goalless draw was nothing less than the canaries deserved after a well-organised and resolute defensive display. Chelsea created few chances and in truth never looked like breaking the deadlock.
Antonio Conte rung the changes as he has done in the league cup as well this season, but it was still a strong line up. Caballero replaced Courtois in goal, while David Luiz returned to the centre of the back three flanked by Rudiger and Cahill. Kenedy played left wing back, with Zappacosta on the right in a 3-4-3 formation, Drinkwater and Bakayoke played through the centre, while Batshuayi had Pedro and Willian either side of him. As expected it was to be a match in which Chelsea enjoyed a high percentage of possession. The home side were never able to trouble Courtois, but tactically without the ball they were spot on, and Gunn in the Norwich goal was only called into action sparingly in a match of few chances.
Whilst on paper the Norwich City line up was 3-5-2, without the ball they resembled something more akin to 5-2-3. This was thanks to clever defensive tactics employed by manager Daniel Farke. When out of possession, his to centre forwards split, pressing up on Rudiger and Cahill, while attacking midfielder Maddison pushed up to pressurise Luiz. This made sure they weren’t given the time to play out from the back that they are often afforded. When they could play into midfield, Tettey and Trybull were man for man against Bakayoko and Drinkwater, and neither used the ball well enough. They weren’t given much support from our front line in fairness. Willian and Pedro rarely dropped off to provide an option between the lines in the manor that Hazard does so well, and they were not able to play straight into Batshuayi’s feet as much as they would have liked. The Belgian forward was marshalled excellently all day by Norwich’s central defender Zimmerman who was excellent, and did just as well against Morata who replaced Batshuayi with fifteen minutes remaining. Neither had any impact on the match.
With Pedro and Willian rarely occupying wide positions, the Norwich back three shaped up man for man against our forward line, which also meant our wing backs were one versus one on both sides, so in no area of the pitch were we able to get an overload, and in an attacking sense, no one really got the better of their opposite number.
Kenedy mustered our first shot around the half hour mark, which was deflected over for a corner that led to nothing. Norwich had only managed one shot over in the first period, in which neither keeper had to do much work.
In the second half, Chelsea looked slightly better for the first fifteen minutes or so in a period in which we created nearly all our chances. The ball was moved at a higher tempo, and Willian in particularly was now dropping into better areas to receive the ball. Picking it up in the inside right position, he evaded tackles before firing straight at Gunn. Moments later after Norwich gave the ball away in midfield, he danced around two defenders in the same area of the pitch, before firing a low shot towards Gunn’s near post, which he got down well too to turn around for a corner.
Some smarter, quicker ball movement from Pedro and Bakayoko resulted in the Frenchman being brought down left of centre about twenty yards out. Luiz hit one of his trademark inside of the foot dipping free kicks, but it didn’t quite dip enough as it caressed the roof of the net. Pedro dropped off to receive, turn, and fire over, but it was slim pickings.
Our central midfield pairing sat deep, and without Willian our Pedro dropping off consistently, or indeed Bakayoko or Drinkwater receiving the ball higher up the pitch, our attacks were disjointed from the midfield to the front line. Musonda and Dujon Sterling joined Morata late on, but only two more chances were forthcoming. Musonda pulled a shot wide at the near post after receiving from the left and turning inside the box, while an injury time corner appeared to be over hit, but found its way to Zappacosta on the left corner of the area, and his dipping volley bounced inches wide of the far post.
You would hope that we will be able to create more chances at home in the replay, on this showing, it may require a different approach.
Norwich City (3-5-2) 0
Gunn; Hanley, Zimmerman, Klose;
Pinto Trybull, Tettey, Maddison, Lewis:
Pritchard, (Wildschut 87) Murphy, (Oliveira 83)
Chelsea (3-4-3) 0
Rudiger, Luiz, Cahill:
Zappacosta, Drinkwater, Bakayoko, Drinkwater, Kenedy: (Musonda 78)
Willian, Batshuayi, (Morata 74), Pedro, (Sterling 89)