Chelsea remain undefeated under Mauricio Pochettino after a 1-1 draw against Newcastle in Atlanta.
Nicolas Jackson’s early opener was cancelled out by Miguel Almiron’s strike on the verge of half time as Chelsea and Newcastle shared the spoils in the Premier League Summer Series pre-season clash.
It was a cagey start to proceedings in Atlanta, as the two sides looked to build sharpness in their pre-season clash.
Chelsea took the lead with the first meaningful chance of the game via new signing Nicolas Jackson in the 12th minute. The blues worked the ball well through the middle of the pitch, before Ian Maatsen slipped a through ball into the path of Jackson, who kept his cool to slot past an on rushing Martin Dubravka in the Newcastle goal.
Chelsea came close to adding a second through Cesare Casadei, who drilled his effort narrowly wide following another promising move.
Newcastle slowly grew back into the game, with Alex Murphy heading at Kepa Arrizabalaga from point blank range.
Newcastle equalised on the brink of half time, through returning hero Miguel Almiron, who used to ply his trade for Atlanta United. Anthony Gordon drove through the middle before slipping the ball beyond Marc Cucurella to Almiron, who picked out the far corner with a sweeping effort to level for the Magpies.
After the interval a plethora of changes from each team slowed down proceedings. Lewis Miley tested Kepa from outside the box, before Christopher Nkunku and Conor Gallagher replied with similar efforts for Chelsea.
Chelsea pushed for a winner late on, with Ben Chilwell forcing a fantastic sprawling save from Nick Pope to keep the score level late in added time.
Here are five things Absolute Chelsea learned from the pre-season draw in Atlanta.
1) Chelsea remain unbeaten under Mauricio Pochettino
After two wins against Wrexham and Brighton, Chelsea were held to a draw in Mauricio Pochettino’s third outing as blues boss.
Despite the draw there were many positives to take, with Chelsea playing well against opposition who finished eight places above them in the league last season.
Although it is only pre-season, it is an encouraging sign that Chelsea are not losing games, a habit which became all too familiar last season. Pochettino is clearly looking to build high standards in his team, and remaining undefeated thus far will help to start rebuild the confidence of a side that was so badly damaged in the last campaign.
2) Nicolas Jackson bags another goal
Nicolas Jackson is quietly becoming the main talking point of Chelsea’s pre-season campaign, as he continues to impress in the striker position. Jackson was a constant thorn in Newcastle’s side with his clever movement, pressing, and physicality proving to be more than a handful.
Jackson’s willingness to work in the channels, drop short, and run in behind make him a potent weapon, with his versatility making him hard to second guess. Most importantly, Jackson took his chance clinically, slotting past Dubravka with apparent ease.
Chelsea fans will feel that if Jackson can carry this form into the league, they will have a real prospect on their hands.
3) Pochettino tactical plans continue to take shape
With three games under his belt, Mauricio Pochettino’s tactical ideas are beginning to become more apparent. Pochettino is seemingly sticking with his 4-2-3-1 formation, which has shown enough sophistication in various phases to excite blues fans.
Chelsea played very vertically against Newcastle, especially in the first half, as was highlighted by the flowing move which led to Nicolas Jackson’s goal. The blues looked to use the speed of Jackson, Nkunku and Mudryk to their advantage, a theme which carried through from the blues last outing against Brighton. Chelsea continued to invert at least one of their wingers too, with Ian Maatsen nominated for this role regularly, allowing the full backs to push forward aggressively.
However, crucially Chelsea looked for more compact defensively against Newcastle than they were against Brighton. The blues defence did not leek many chances at all, a positive sign of progress under Pochettino and that his tactical ideas are being understood on the pitch.
4) Captain Reece James returns
Reece James led Chelsea out as captain at the Mercedes Benz stadium, as he got his first pre-season minutes under his belt. James put in a solid performance for the blues at right back, against strong opposition in Newcastle.
James showed positivity in possession, looking to play forward where possible, whilst looking resolute in defence, with Newcastle offering minimal threat down his flank. James will expect to continue building his match fitness throughout the remaining pre-season fixtures with hopes that a good pre-season can help prevent another injury hit campaign.
5) Ian Maatsen versatility
Another player who is having an impressive pre-season campaign is returning loanee Ian Maatsen. Maatsen is conventionally a left back but spent the first two games of pre-season at left wing before switching to an even more unfamiliar right wing position against Newcastle, yet he continues to impress.
Maatsen has shown great tactical discipline, and is the player who has adapted fastest to Mauricio Pochettino’s tactical plan thus far. Largely playing as an inverted winger, Maatsen has linked all stages of play very well, with a well timed through ball to assist Nicolas Jackson epitomising his technical and tactical contributions to his team.