1. Pulis’s tactics pay off
Tony Pulis had lost all six previous games he managed at Stamford Bridge until he met Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea for the seventh match-up.
The former Stoke and Crystal Palace manager is often criticised for his style of play, with his sides renowned for long passes and tactics designed to frustrate opponents, but there is a reason he has never been relegated as a manager. It works.
“We just felt there were certain things to do during the game,” Pulis said post-match. “We didn’t want to come and sit. We’re very pleased we’ve got something out of it. The lads worked hard enough as a team to get something.”
Away against the champions, Pulis’s instructions had clearly been to press high as a unit, and rush Chelsea players who may still be lacking in confidence after such a disastrous start to their title defence. His side did this to good effect, recovering the ball in Chelsea’s half nine times and making five interceptions to put Chelsea under pressure.
2. Fletcher epitomises Baggies' bounce
Upon signing for West Brom last February, Darren Fletcher was immediately given the armband by Tony Pulis. It’s easy to see why.
Not for the first time this season, the captain was pulling the strings. The 31-year-old former Manchester United midfielder was at the heart of West Brom’s play, driving his team forward and encouraging them to press high at every opportunity.
He won six out of his seven attempted tackles, completed 80% of his passes and created three decent opportunities for his team-mates.
3. Costa on the cusp...
…of brilliance and idiocy. Sometimes it's one or the other with the Spain international. Against West Brom, it was almost both.
After gliding past Jonny Evans in the opening minute, it looked like it might be a long night for the visitors; he blazed his shot wide but was in the mood – as he miraculously has been since Guus Hiddink arrived.
The Brazil-born striker was involved in the build-up to the home side’s opening goal – a fantastic team move that featured one full-back setting up the other as Branislav Ivanovic’s cross was tapped home by Cesar Azpilicueta after 20 minutes. Of his four shots, only one was on target but his link-up play and willingness to run at West Brom prompted the Stamford Bridge crowd to begin chanting his name.
But, for all his brilliance, also comes an aggression that can overstep the mark. He plays on the edge and it’s almost as if you can’t have his brilliance without his aggression – he just wouldn’t be the same player.
The forward needs to learn – and fast – the balance required to be beneficial for his team. A number of times during the 90 minutes – and indeed after the final whistle – tempers frayed. Costa was booked for an ugly challenge on Craig Gardner in the second half and had ongoing battles with Jonas Olsson and Claudio Yacob.
Another trait of Tony Pulis teams is that they give as good as they get and aren’t afraid to play a physical match. The more frustrated Chelsea became, the more it played into West Brom’s hands.
- Chelsea still haven’t won back-to-back league games this season, last doing so in May 2015.
- The Blues have conceded two or more goals in 12 fixtures this season, twice as many as last season (6).
- West Brom avoided defeat at Stamford Bridge for only the second time in the Premier League (D2 L8).
- Both of Cesar Azpiliceuta’s Premier League goals have been scored against West Brom, having netted in both meetings with the Baggies this season.
- Branislav Ivanovic has now provided an assist in all eight of his seasons at Chelsea in the Premier League.
- The Blues scored with their only shot on target in the first half and had just two in the whole game.
- Gareth McAuley scored his fourth Premier League own goal.
- Chelsea vs WBA is the first Premier League game to have both goalkeepers booked since Portsmouth vs Hull in March 2010 (both featuring Boaz Myhill).
- Chelsea have lost just one of their last seven Premier League meetings with WBA (W3 D3 L1).
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