Back in 1966, Italian movie director Sergio Leone released one of the greatest Spaghetti Western epics of all time. ‘Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo’ had Clint Eastwood in a remarkable role and is known for Leone’s use of long shots and close-up cinematography, as well as his distinctive use of violence, tension, and stylistic gunfights.
Well, maybe we’ll not see stylistic gunfights at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but for sure there will be a lot of tension on the field. That’s because Cardiff City travel to London without a win to face a Chelsea side who have won all four league matches this season.
At first sight, it’s an easy match for Sarri’s rangers if we compare both teams on Twelve’s leader board. Of the top 10 players, only three are from the Bluebirds: Joe Ralls, Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison.The Good Left-back (or how Alonso became the Blue’s MVP)
It’s no secret that Marcos Alonso represents the biggest surprise in Sarri’s game model. If the Spaniard used to work hard and well on defensive actions, he now has total liberty to attack the last third of the pitch and to be important on offensive actions.
His technique, positional awareness and free-kick ability remain a weapon for the Blues. Indeed, Alonso was Chelsea’s third top goalscorer in the EPL last season with seven goals, and he has 14 strikes and six assists to his name since he joined the Blues. He also scored in week two of 2018/19 to feature in our team of the week.
Alonso has been involved in more goals than any other defender since the beginning of the 2016/17 season. Besides that, he follows in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps to become a Spanish international. The Alonsos have a beautiful family history in the sport.
Taking a look at Twelve’s data for this season, we find Alonso as Chelsea’s best performer with 9,507 points. It would be a great score for any player, but if you think his first duty is to defend, we can imagine how valuable Alonso is to his teammates. He still makes his great defensive actions with accuracy, but it’s on his offensive actions where we can find very interesting moves and passes.
The Bad Forward (or how Pedro became the Blue’s shooter)
Let’s take a look at Twelve’s expected goals table, where we can find Chelsea struggling to climb up with 6.4 xG goals scored. Taking that they’ve actually scored 10 goals, that’s a 3.6 difference between real and expected goals.
But if we check out Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud in Twelve’s Chelsea leader board, they are not in prominent positions.
However, when we talk about Pedro we can call him “il brutto” as in the movie. In Iitalian, “sta lavorando di brutto” is an expression which means he’s working FURIOUSLY. And it’s amazing how the Spanish forward can bring intensity, speed and endurance on offensive actions.
He’s the best shooter on both sides, with 3,327 points on Twelve’s shots leader board. With 10 shots taken so far, that means every shot has been worth 0.33 expected goals on average. The ‘bad’ Spaniard has had some high quality chances.
The Ugly Midfielder (or how Hazard can make some magic)
Naughty boy! If Jorginho is the good side of Sarri and the Blues’ greatest pass maker, Hazard is still the sorcerer who can take a key pass from his sleeve, and create the best chances in attack.
And here we can talk a little bit about how Neil Warnock transformed Cardiff City. He has worked with limited resources and is determined to hurt the Blues on Saturday: “If you shut up shop at Stamford Bridge you’re going to get picked off and lose by two or three anyway,” said Warnock at press conference. “So you may as well have a go, you just have to hope you don’t leave yourself wide open.”
The moment his side won promotion against Reading, Warnock told his players in the dressing room ‘Enjoy the Premier League and believe. Outside of the top six, anybody can beat anybody.’ That’s the alchemist talking, and maybe there are believers among the Bluebirds.
Joe Ralls is perhaps the one who translates Warnock’s formulas into football the best. He has scored 15.8 points per minute this season, and is the one Cardiff player to watch against the Blues.
If Ralls is the alchemist’s agent, Hazard is the type of player you can rely on. Even though Sarri started the first matches with him on the bench (due to the World Cup’s physical toll), the Belgian is always searching for ways to build up the game. He’s also a great space hunter, making the most of smaller areas.
On Twelve’s attack leader board, Hazard has already scored 4,041 points. It’s interesting how he passes from the left to the right and, when he is positioned at the left to achieve depth, he dribbles! A nightmare from “il cattivo” to the Bluebirds’ Victor Camarasa and Bruno Ecuele.
Top Class Managers dueling with knighthood
We have said everything about Sarri here on the blog, and how he can postulate Chelsea to every title they will dispute. The Italian manager on his first Premier League journey is beating records game after game. And he’s on target right now.
The Bluebirds’ veteran manager is renowned – and often maligned – for his direct approach and, while his teams do have a rugged physical edge, there can be subtlety and sophistication to Warnock’s tactics.
He’s not a 4-4-2 man who turns up every week where you know what you’re going to get from a tactical viewpoint. There have been many major adjustments which have been particularly interesting.
One of them is how the internal midfielders (Ralls & Arter) can press the opposition line very high, without leaving great spaces in behind. That’s because their two full-backs stand high and wide, virtually as wingers, helping with closing passing lines.
For sure it will be a great match to watch, with Spanish “bandoleros” and an audacious and resilient Belgian on command for the Blues, while the Bluebirds look to the alchemist’s sourcery to find their first Premier League win.