Stoke look stuck with their old reputation
Talk to any Stoke employee, or supporter about Stoke’s tactics these days and they will insist their style of play has changed for the better.
In front of the TV cameras though, anyone tuning in would have seen little difference between the bruising antics once employed by their old manager Tony Pulis and what his successor Mark Hughes used here.
Chelsea players were kicked and battered from the first minute to the last, much to the chagrin of a clearly irate visiting manager Jose Mourinho. For example, Phil Bardsley was lucky to escape with just a yellow card for a vicious tackle on Eden Hazard.
There is nothing wrong with trying to unsettle your opponent, but do not make out you’re a saint when you’re a still a sinner.
Stoke City vs Chelsea player ratings
Stoke City vs Chelsea player ratings
1/22 Stoke: Asmir Begovic
Couldn’t get near either goal, but made a fine stop from Costa late on. 6/10
2/22 Phil Bardsley
Lucky to stay to stay on the pitch after wild lunge on Hazard only drew yellow. 5
3/22 Ryan Shawcross
Frustrated by the movement of Diego Costa all evening. 5
4/22 Marc Muniesa
Like Shawcross, Costa’s movement and Fabregas’s passing flummoxed him. 5
5/22 Erik Pieters
Offered an attacking outlet for Stoke but his final ball often let him down. 6
6/22 Geoff Cameron
Lost John Terry for the goal, and struggled to get into the game. 5
7/22 Steven N'zonzi
Often overrun by Matic and Mikel in the middle. 4
8/22 Jon Walters
Could never quite get a foothold in the game. 5
9/22 Bojan Krkic
The former Barcelona man showed trickery at times, but lacked incision. 6
10/22 Patrick Arnautovic
Offered some invention down the left wing. 5
11/22 Peter Crouch
Shackled with ease by Terry and Cahill. 4
12/22 Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois
Great reactions to deny deflected N'Zonzi strike and quick off his line to cut out high balls. Rarely challenged. 6/10
13/22 Branislav Ivanovic
Inclined to get forward in the first period as Cahill covered his right flank. Not as watertight as Azpi and allowed Assaidi past him in the latert stages. 6
14/22 Gary Cahill
Cut off every supply route to Peter Crouch, dominant in the air and on the deck as the Blues closed out their hosts. 7
15/22 John Terry
Shook off his marker to head Fabregas's corner home for his first goal of the season. Resolute at the back as Stoke were limited to half chances. 7
16/22 Cesar Azpilicueta
Blocking Stoke attempts down the right as they went in search of a point at 1-0. Successful with every challenge. 7
17/22 Jon Obi Mikel
Made some important interventions and looked composed on the ball. Guilty of a few wayward passes. 6
18/22 Nemanja Matic
Provided a great defensive shield - constantly snuffing out Stoke attacks. Fine tackle from the Serbian turned defence into attack but Costa fluffed one-on-one. 8
Was wasteful and struggled to make his mark before being taken off for Andre Schurrle late on. Schurrle made more of an impact in 15 minutes. 6
20/22 Cesc Fabregas
Chalked up his 12th assist of the season and should have had more but for team-mates' poor finishing. Great tracking back to cut out Bardsley and capped fine showing with Chelsea's second. 8
21/22 Eden Hazard
Tireless running at the Stoke defence down the left. Enjoyed a hard-fought battle with Phil Bardsley and set up Fabregas for the second. 7
22/22 Diego Costa
A frustrated forward waiting for his break. Flashed at a shot before steering wide when one-on-one. Denied by Begovic after receiving Schurrle's pass late on. 6
Cesc Fabregas can play where he wants
Most of the Spain international’s best Chelsea performances have been alongside Nemanja Matic in front of the back four. Last night, Mourinho decided to field the 27-year-old as a No 10 instead, giving Oscar a rest on the bench.
Once again he was one of Chelsea’s most influential players, passing with confidence and more often than not, finding a blue shirt. It says a lot that even his late scuffed shot found the target. Playing closer to Diego Costa made their understanding all the more pleasing to the eye.
Bojan couldn’t make Mourinho anxious this time
Stoke’s playmaker has been earning a few plaudits of late, which prompted the Chelsea manager to express concern over whether he could trouble him again.
Bojan had a goal disallowed for offside in the Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Mourinho’s Internazionale in 2010 which would have knocked the latter out. While he may have shown some nice touches against Chelsea, he did very little in the final third to give the Special One any such palpitations this time around. Perhaps if Stoke had concentrated more on kicking the ball rather than the men in blue, he might have had more of an influence.
Inability to kill teams off early could cost Chelsea
Not for the first time this season, Chelsea dominated a game from the outset but did not make their superiority count on the scoreline.
Stoke were in with a chance till late on as Chelsea failed to convert their possession and chances into a healthier advantage. It meant the visitors were just one mistake or good bit of play from conceding an equaliser and dropping crucial points on the road.
This weakness has already cost them at Manchester City, Manchester United, Sunderland and Newcastle and is why the former are still within close range going into the Christmas period.
Terry’s contract situation needs to be resolved
Chelsea left it till May to hand their captain a one-year extension last season, surely the powers that be will make a decision sooner this time.
It is games like this where the 34-year-old proves he is still the best defender and leader in the squad. The towering header which put Chelsea in front inside two minutes epitomised his desire for a fourth Premier League crown. He is a player Chelsea cannot live without.Reuse content