Chelsea enjoyed 81% of possession in their 2-1 Premier League win over Newcastle at St James’ Park.
Blues midfielder Jorginho completed more passes – 158 – than the whole of the Newcastle team combined.
But for all that time on the ball, Chelsea did not do very much. They managed only three shots on target – one more than Newcastle – and ultimately needed a fortunate own goal to take three points.
Chelsea must do more – especially, considering Liverpool and Manchester City’s impressive starts, if they want to be involved at the top of the table for the long haul.
Full-backs fail to pick Newcastle’s padlock
It might seem counter-intuitive considering left-back Marcos Alonso was key to both Chelsea goals on Sunday, but Maurizio Sarri’s full-backs are not as effective an attacking threat as their Liverpool and City counterparts.
When a side sit deep, it is very difficult to unpick them by playing narrow and in front of them.
For City, full-back Benjamin Mendy’s delivery from the left has given them a new dimension this season. Against Huddersfield last weekend, he delivered 12 open-play crosses, more than any other City player since the start of last season.
Against Brighton on Saturday, Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold were dynamic and dangerous, overlapping at pace to get in positions close to the byeline from where they could get in telling crosses and cut-backs.
I just do not think Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta are those sort of players.
Alonso is more like a midfielder – very elegant on the ball, clever with how he uses space and angles – but he does not have the pace to unsettle a defence.
Azpilicueta played for much of last season as one of previous boss Antonio Conte’s three centre-halves.
The demands on a full-back nowadays are totally different; it is a lot of running at high intensity.
Playing against a deep, well-organised defence, you have to get crosses in.
It creates some chaos, an element of chance, in a defence. It gives the strikers something to attack and run on to rather than playing with their back to goal all the time.
Chelsea have some great headers of the ball up front in Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata. Why not use them?
Hazard gives Chelsea X-factor
There were rumours that Real Madrid wanted Eden Hazard in the summer.
It was crucial that Chelsea kept hold of the Belgian.
Without him it is going to be very difficult for them. He is the one player who poses a consistent threat.
On Sunday he was fouled five time – more than twice as much as any other player on the pitch – and Newcastle constantly had four or five defenders around him in an attempt to nullify his threat.
He is world-class but it would be interesting to see how Chelsea cope without him.
Against a defence as drilled and tightly packed as Newcastle’s, if you cannot get crosses in from good positions, Hazard is the only one who can unlock things with a piece of skill.
Weighing up midfield balance
Jorginho is the man Sarri has brought with him from Napoli to channel Chelsea’s play through.
He was heavily involved at St James’ Park but, in a game like this, that is an easier job to do, popping the ball around without being pressed.
Generally in England, though, he will be asked to play at a higher pace and make quicker decisions.
You do not get any chance of easy build-up, like you would in Italy. So far he has been OK, but let us see how it goes for the rest of the season.
One of the knock-on effects of Jorginho coming in is N’Golo Kante’s move into a more advanced role.
It is a little bit strange. He is not a goalscorer. He has got one this season, but it was more by accident.
He is a world champion and I like him more in the holding role he played for France.
Imparting ideas takes time
Sarri knows he needs to improve, that the system is not yet working as he would want.
When I took charge of Chelsea in 1996, it was half a season.
At the beginning the fans did not like the way we were keeping the ball. They wanted to have the ball forward.
It took us a couple of months to communicate to the fans what we were trying to do with more possession.
I brought full-back Graeme le Saux back to Chelsea from Blackburn and in the first training session he was opening up on his left foot and hitting the ball long.
I had to tell him that that was not how we do it, that I wanted him to play through the midfield. He did it immediately.
He was a fast learner and a good player.
Newcastle’s approach leaves them vulnerable
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez’s tactics – with a five-man defence and no real ambition to get forward – was criticised by some.
If, as a team, you believe you can match up against the opposition and hold your own, you will hate playing that system.
You can only get that buy-in from your players if they understand that the opposition is so much better individually, that they have to really scrap and fight to take even a point.
Given the circumstances, with Newcastle missing key players like Jonjo Shelvey and Jamaal Lascelles, it was a legitimate tactic.
But, giving up that much possession and position on the pitch, you leave yourself at the mercy of a marginal call like the penalty or a slice of luck like DeAndre Yedlin’s late own goal.
Ruud Gullit was speaking to BBC Sport’s Mike Henson.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45317675