Willian’s goal less than two minutes into the game would’ve been enough, but Chelsea added three more to take down Hull City in a 4-0 FA Cup fifth-round win at Stamford Bridge on Friday.
The Brazilian added another goal to secure the brace to go along with scores by Pedro and Olivier Giroud who scored his first goal for his new club.
Hull City had a chance to mount a comeback after Cesc Fàbregas tripped Harry Wilson in the box, but Willy Caballero saved David Meyler’s penalty to keep the clean sheet. Wilson had to eventually be substituted for Jon Toral after landing awkwardly on his shoulder in the incident.
Emerson made his Chelsea debut after transferring from AS Roma, earning an assist to Giroud’s goal. Kyle Scott also made his senior debut for the Blues, replacing Fàbregas in the 62nd minute.
Here are five things we learned from Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Hull City.
Lions on the hunt
Chelsea showed their intent to dominate the game since the first minute of the game. Pressing the opponent was the primary objective for the Blues.
Costly mistakes were made by Hull in their own half due to pressure from Willian, Fàbregas, and Giroud. Losing the ball in dangerous areas left the Tigers on the back foot, allowing Chelsea to capitalise on slow reaction times from the defenders.
The Blues were able to transition quickly into attack once they gained possession, quicker than Hull were able to set up and defend. The lions in Chelsea’s side were the predators on Friday. Once they scored the opening goal, they snowballed their way to victory with eight shots on target, converting 50 per cent of them into goals.
Wingbacks stretching defence
Emerson made his debut for Chelsea, and the crowd at Stamford Bridge should be ecstatic with his performance. The Brazilian-born Italian was heavily involved in both sides of the ball, and his role in attack was crucial.
Mirroring Davide Zappacosta on the right, both wingbacks played close to the touchlines, stretching the Hull defence like pizza dough. The Italians kept receiving passes in wide areas, and it created holes in the back line. Midfielders would try to fill the holes, but that would just give more space for attackers like Willian and Pedro to get the ball.
The wing play was crucial last year so the forwards didn’t have to drift out wide. The attackers had a more direct path to goal in the central areas. Their ability to track back in to defence also allowed Pedro and Willian to focus on getting into good positions to start the counter attack, highlighting the importance of great wingbacks in Chelsea’s playstyle.
New blood revitalising Blues
Giroud’s addition to the club has brought some life into a side that seemed to be tumbling into a dark path of destruction.
Yes, Chelsea’s recent form could be attributed to some well-deserved longer rest in between games, but the inclusion of the former Gunner has changed the playstyle of the Blues, even if only slightly.
Chelsea’s transfer window was highlighted by Antonio Conte’s desire for a target man. The West London club were linked to the likes of Edin Dzeko, Andy Carroll, and Peter Crouch before finalising a deal with their North London rivals.
Long balls aren’t being lumped to Giroud in the middle, but his hold-up play has been key for Chelsea in penetrating defences. A striker that could play with their back towards the goal was essential to unleash the creative attack of Hazard, Willian, and Pedro.
In addition to being a focal point in attack, Giroud is also putting himself in the box to receive crosses, and he scored his first goal for Chelsea from an Emerson ground cross. His positioning at the near post will allow other Chelsea players to play to their strengths, making him potentially one of the best transfer signings of this past January.
Fàbregas and his magic hat
If you watch Fàbregas when he plays, his head is on a swivel. One blink, and you’ll miss him turning his head to get vision of the pitch.
He’s only looking for a split second, but that’s all he needs to gain awareness of his surroundings. It’s like traffic—look both ways twice before crossing. Fàbregas knows the location of everyone on the pitch, allowing him to make pinpoint passes with supreme accuracy. His one-time pass to assist Pedro is a testament to his footballing ability.
But his vision isn’t limited to his passing. The Spaniard is a commander in the midfield, telling others where to pass or dribble. When given time and space, Fàbregas is the conductor of this squad.
He was on the bench for three straight matches until Tiémoué Bakayoko was suspended, and Chelsea showed their inability to direct traffic during that time. Fàbregas would be limited against tougher sides who would give him a physical challenge, but his presence on the pitch is vital for organization. Conte needs to find a way to protect Fàbregas from being exposed against better opposition while utilising all the perks you get from having him on your team.
Real test on Tuesday
Chelsea seem to be back in business after a run of bad results. The losses have been erased from our short-term memory, replaced with winning memories of the last two matches. The real test, however, begins on Tuesday when Chelsea welcome Barcelona to Stamford Bridge.
West Brom are at the bottom of the Premier League. Hull City are at the bottom of the Championship. Chelsea have played well, but they were heavy favourites going into each match. This time, the Blues will go into their Round-of-16 matchup as underdogs to the leaders of La Liga.
After that, Chelsea will take on both Manchester clubs away from home. Despite the happiness around Stamford Bridge currently, Conte may find himself on the hot seat once again if results don’t go in their favour.