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5 Things Learned: West Ham 1-1 Chelsea | Premier League



(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Chelsea were held to another draw in the Premier League after Emerson Palmieri cancelled out Joao Felix’s opener at the London Stadium.

Graham Potter fielded an exciting XI with Noni Madueke, João Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk behind Kai Havertz in attack, and the likes of Reece James and Benoit Badiashile retaining their places in defence.

After the positives of back-to-back clean sheets, Chelsea were keen to add goals and build up some momentum and confidence ahead of the Champions League round of 16 clash against Borussia Dortmund.

Chelsea started positively – passing with purpose and a high tempo, and finding the net three times in the first half, although two were ruled out for offside, with Joao Felix opening the scoring, before ex-Blue Emerson levelled the score-line against the run of play in the 28th minute.

Potter introduced some fresh legs in the 67th minute with Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell entering the fray, before it was the Hammers turn to have a goal ruled out – Declan Rice in an offside position before Tomáš Souček found the net.

The Blues were denied what appeared to be a blatant penalty late on, and were unable to find a would-be winning goal – Graham Potter will surely be seething when he sees the replay, Souček blocking a goalward shot with a stray arm.

Here are five things Absolute Chelsea learned from Saturday’s draw in the London derby.

1) João Felix sharp in attack

João Felix returned to the XI after a serving his three match ban after a debut red card away at Fulham. He found the back of the net in the opening 10 minutes with a clever chip and rebound off the post over Łukasz Fabiański before the flag went up for offside, and subsequently converted his first goal for the club soon after from a superb Enzo pass from an xG of 0.64.

The Portuguese attacker was a constant threat in attack, causing issues for the West Ham defence and linking up well with fellow forwards – playing two key passes and completing two successful dribbles in the first half.

A loan signing from Atlético Madrid, who splashed over £110 million on the youngster in 2019, Felix could well become a permanent Chelsea player in the summer if he continues his fine form at the club.

2) Enzo impressive in midfield

Enzo partnered Ruben Loftus-Cheek in a midfield pivot – his second appearance after the Argentine’s gargantuan £106 million January transfer from Benfica. The midfielder looked sharp and alert in midfield – and teed up João Felix for the opener with an excellent first assist for the club. His pass for Kai Havertz 10 minutes later was also superb, the German’s finish chalked off after straying offside. The midfielder averaged a pass completion percentage of 91 in the first half, and completed 100 percent of his attempted ‘long balls’ , and kept things ticking in midfield in the second half as the game became more chaotic and end-to-end.

Combining rugged defensive abilities with excellent technique on the ball, Enzo will hopefully be an integral member of the Chelsea midfield for the next decade having just turned 22 last month, especially given the massive outlay spent on his acquisition.

3) Thiago Silva classy as always

Thiago Silva has just penned a one-year extension at Stamford Bridge, taking his stay at the club to four seasons. The Brazilian typifies the phrase “form is temporary, class is permanent” – exhibiting his vast qualities in defence yet again, perhaps best evidenced by a last-ditch tackle in the 33rd minute to prevent a shot on goal.

The defender is an excellent mentor to youngsters Wesley Fofana and Benoit Badiashile, and will be an invaluable dressing room presence as the club target a transfer policy of acquiring u23 talents across the pitch. With an element of longevity hugely important with the influx of new arrivals at Chelsea, Thiago Silva’s extension is great news for his teammates and fans alike.

4) Marc Cucurella the weak link

Marc Cucurella has struggled somewhat since his £60+ million transfer from Brighton last summer, switching between various roles as Chelsea have set up with both a back three and five approach, respectively. The defender again failed to show his qualities he displayed last season on the south coast, winning Brighton’s Player of the Year under Graham Potter, losing possession 10 times before he was replaced in the 66th minute.

With Ben Chilwell returning to fitness and loanee Ian Maatsen impressing at Burnley, winning January Championship Player of the Month, Cucurella will have to step up in the coming months if he is to continue his role in the starting XI next season and beyond.

5) Ruben Loftus-Cheek silky upon his return

RLC returned to the starting XI for his first appearance since the away defeat to Newcastle United in November, making his 200th career appearance. Operating alongside Enzo in a midfield pivot, Loftus-Cheek was confident and composed in the middle of the park, playing 93 percent of his passes, completing 100 percent of his dribbles and winning 7 of 8 ground duels before he was subbed off in the 78th minute.

Given the injuries to Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante, departure of Jorginho, and the poor form of Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher, Loftus-Cheek provides a unique profile and blend of physicality and technical grace, and could establish himself in the first XI during the remainder of the season.