As Chelsea and West Ham went to war at Stamford Bridge, we saw two of the league’s most excitable managers face-off. Antonio Conte and Slaven Bilic were jumping around throughout the game, getting involved with the ball whenever they could do and having a good lot of fun in the process.
Good on them, we say. It’s nice to see people enjoy what they do, but we reckon Antonio Conte was enjoying what he does a fair bit less when James Collins lashed the ball into the back of Thibaut Courtois’ net late in the second half.
Earlier in that half, Eden Hazard had fired Chelsea in to the lead from the penalty spot after Michail Antonio – who had once again started at right-back – had fouled Cesar Azpilicueta in the box.
The game was good to watch, Chelsea dominated throughout and West Ham defended resolutely for much of the match, despite looking a little short of ideas when in possession.
These two sides may well end up battling for a top four place later this season, so this Chelsea victory could prove vital in a few months time.
Check out what we learned from a fascinating clash…
From being the key creator in Chelsea’s winning side the season before last, Fabregas was left on the bench against West Ham. One game left bench warming might not mean too much, but in this instance it may well hold some relevance for the rest of the season.
Conte’s sides are a battering ram of relentless attacks, quick transition and fast possession, which doesn’t suit the more calculating Fabregas. Chelsea’s all-action display was exciting, if a little crude at times, and this might just be a sign of things to come.
Cesc will surely be rotated in and out of the side, but the way that the Blues approached their first clash of the season suggests he will spend more time as a substitute than a starter.
With Sofiane Feghouli and Manuel Lanzini both unavailable through injury and Dimitri Payet not yet fully fit, the last thing Slaven Bilic needed was another injury to one of his attacking options.
Andre Ayew, who has recently arrived from Swansea for around £20 million, picked up what looked like a knock to his thigh during the first half and left Bilic with a dilemma. Gokhan Tore was brought on, but – with the hefty demands of the Europa League – the Irons’ manager cannot afford to have his players falling like flies.
Could this be the result of over-training? Or is it a little bit of bad luck at the beginning of the campaign?
Chelsea’s Oscar was marginalised under Jose Mourinho, with inconsistent performances blighting much of his Chelsea career to date. The Brazilian did not offer the creativity needed in a Mourinho team and too often was drifting in and out of games.
It was a signal of trust that he started in Conte’s first game and the Brazilian did not disappoint. Functioning in a 4-3-3 rather than a 4-2-3-1, Oscar ran from deep and led the high-intensity Chelsea game in the final third.
Favoured over Cesc Fabregas, Oscar has the all-round game to become a real star under Conte. His work-rate, intelligent runs and ability to inject pace into the attack with sharp one-twos make him the perfect player for the new Chelsea style. Nordtveit and Kouyate struggled to track his surging runs throughout the game, as will many throughout this season if he continues on this sort of form.
The Brazilian was the best player on the pitch for much of the match, this could be the season where he finally realises all that potential.