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FA Cup final shows Chelsea needs more than a center back

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Chelsea player ratings: Anthony Taylor steals the show in the final by Ishan Shah BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 29: Fikayo Tomori of Chelsea and Callum Wilson of AFC Bournemouth during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Chelsea FC at Vitality Stadium on February 29, 2020 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images) Chelsea’s loss to Arsenal feature an abysmal defending display, showcasing the simple fact that the Blues need more than a new center back this summer.

Chelsea met Arsenal in the FA Cup final for the second time in three years, handing the Gunners a record fourteenth FA Cup title. The game had many talking points and many fans would focus on the convenient ones, like the refereeing decisions or the injuries. It would seem, however, that the Blues had lost control by then.

Chelsea showed little defensive discipline, and this particular characteristic has been present for far too long this season. The Blues players seem to get carried away during the attacking phase, like they don’t ever expect to lose the ball. When they do, everyone is momentarily surprised and disoriented. By the time players realize themselves, the opposition is already bearing down on Chelsea’s goal.

Chelsea players are often caught in no man’s land when the Bluses lose the ball. The formation Chelsea played yesterday required a high level of tactical and defensive discipline. Arsenal had it. The Arsenal players got into position quickly, closing spaces and restricting Chelsea to the wings. This lack of discipline has often left the center backs exposed, leaving them in two on one and three on two situations. A new center back wouldn’t make the team more disciplined defensively. The team and head coach have to do that.

Related Story: Chelsea: Two lessons learned in FA Cup final defeat

The Blues generally did a poor job of picking up runners. Especially runs in behind. Cesar Azpilicueta was a victim of this. Azpilicueta shouldn’t have been the only one chasing a long ball with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The moment Azpilicueta was caught in a foot race against Aubameyang, something was already wrong. The fact that Azpilicueta was even close to Aubameyang shows that Azpilicueta was the only one who spotted the run in the first place. Aubameyang is the fastest player in the league, or was the fastest on the pitch anyways. Azpilicueta was the slowest of the three center backs. Surely someone didn’t think it a good idea to match up Azpilicueta with Aubameyang.

More frustrating in all of this, was Chelsea’s collective reaction to the equalizer. From the moment Arsenal equalized, the Blues started playing differently. Their confidence was shot. They were a different team, they lost control of the game. They cannot afford to be that team, a team that gets skittish when they concede, a team that gets scared, a team that loses its character. That’s not Chelsea.

Unfortunately, this cannot be attributed to “youth” because only two academy graduates were on the pitch at the time. Arsenal’s goal came against the run of play, but after the goal, the Chelsea players conceded control of the game, they were suddenly all too aware of the space behind them, and even that they didn’t handle well. They should’ve been aware of that space from the first whistle.

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Set pieces are something that the Blues have historically had success with. Unfortunately, with this team, that is not the case. The final against Arsenal had five Chelsea players that were six feet or higher, six when Andreas Christensen was subbed on, seven when Tammy Abraham was subbed on, eight when Callum Hudson-Odoi was subbed on, yet the Blues were no threat from set pieces. It’s not enough to be tall, you have to actually jump to be a threat in the air. Chelsea is wasting their height, and as such, many goal scoring opportunities. Teams are not bothered when they concede set pieces against Chelsea. John Terry is ashamed. The Blues have enough height in the team to be a considerable threat in the air. Only Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rudiger can currently be considered “aerial threats”. Maybe Marcos Alonso too.

Next: Chelsea player ratings: Anthony Taylor steals the show in the final

This is not to say the Blues do not need another center back, it is also not to say they do; however, it is dreamy to think that Chelsea’s defensive problems (as a whole) would be solved with another center back, even a world class one.

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