1. Loftus-Cheek might prove youngsters CAN progress at Chelsea
Ruben Loftus-Cheek made only his second league start of the season, but should feature more in the closing weeks. The midfielder is getting better with every appearance and showed why Guus Hiddink preferred to deploy him behind the lone striker from the start at Villa Park rather than Oscar.
Chelsea hadn’t won in the last four matches, but a trip to the league’s bottom club was always likely to provide the perfect antidote. The youngster opened the scoring from a deflected side-footed shot off Joleon Lescott in the 26th minute.
Loftus-Cheek misplaced just three passes from a possible 55 and his sheer presence drew four fouls from the opposition. He almost doubled his team’s lead just before the break, when he latched onto a poor pass from Carlos Sanchez, but he couldn’t force Brad Guzan into action on that occasion.
“Once the goal went in I think visibly you could see a big dent,” said Villa's caretaker manager Eric Black in the post-match press conference. “It’s good to see guys like Loftus-Cheek when things are at stake; how they deal with the pressure,” said Hiddink. “It’s very important that he isn’t just making 45 minutes or 60 minutes, but that he feels and gathers the substance of Premier League demands.”
2. Pato and Miazga encouraging on debut
It’s not just the Chelsea faithful that have been wondering why their team took the effort to bring striker Alexandre Pato on loan to London – those fans who hadn't forgotten his existence had been waiting to catch a glimpse of the Brazilian enigma. He didn’t start the match, but an injury in the 23rd minute to Loic Remy gave him his opportunity 64 days after signing for the Blues.
In stoppage time at the end of the first 45 minutes, Pato was bundled to the ground by Aly Cissokho and referee Neil Swarbrick pointed straight to the penalty spot. Pedro immediately picked up the ball, but Pato had other plans and wasn’t going to be denied his big moment. “We were here when Pato scored!” chanted the away supporters after the former Milan forward slotted the penalty past Guzan.
Then, at the start of the second half, Pato released Oscar before the two substitutes combined again, with the latter cutting the ball back into the path of Pedro. The Spaniard finished Chelsea’s best move of the match and put the game beyond the home side with half the game still to play.
“The expectation was that he was coming in earlier in previous games, but we had to make a pre-season [for him],” Hiddink confessed. “I could have brought him in earlier but then I think he would have been killed – he should have some basic physical condition.”
Pato wasn’t the only debutant on display: Hiddink was forced to play a makeshift centre-back partnership due to the tendon injuries to both John Terry and Gary Cahill. Matt Miazga became the first American to play for Chelsea, as the 20-year-old January signing from New York Red Bulls made his bow for the club.
He naturally struggled with the aerial ability of Rudy Gestede, and managed to win only five of his 11 defensive duals in the air. But Miazga did complete three tackles, a block and made more clearances than anyone else in the game.
3. Ayew shows that at least one Villa player is trying
The biggest assumption surrounding Aston Villa’s demise this term is that once the inevitable happens and they find themselves in next season’s Championship, that no other teams in the top flight will be interested in any of their men.
It’s a natural one given how poor they've been for the last eight months – and longer for some – but they do possess one player who might be courted in the summer.
Jordan Ayew had six shots in this match and created two chances, as he tried to insert some positivity into the side. With half an hour gone, Carles Gil forced a save from Thibaut Courtois and the rebound hit Ayew before falling kindly into the Belgian goalkeeper's arms. The French winger showed his frustration, as he lashed out at the post.
Ayew had Villa’s best chances of the game and his direct running almost worked when he avoided a couple of challenges before narrowly missing the goal.
The attacker showed a touch of class personality-wise, as one of the few Villa players to applaud the fans at the final whistle. Villa are unlikely to keep hold of him next term, with a number of teams expected to take advantage of their predicament.
4. Villa just need season to end
With a new man in the dugout, Villa initially passed the ball with a new sense of freedom and purpose. However, it didn’t last long and they were quickly back playing in the manner which has brought them just three wins in the league this campaign.
The club are a complete mess, from the ownership, to the boardroom and then to the players. “You’re not fit to wear the shirt,” sung the home fans, and they loudly booed Leandro Bacuna as he arrived from the bench because of his seemingly poor attitude to the cause.
That dissent could have been aimed at a number of Villa’s squad, but the Holte End no longer have the energy to direct their anger at almost everyone in claret and blue. The official teamsheet got the start time wrong and misspelt Radamel Falcao’s name, while even the stewards could no longer be bothered to remove the critical banners.
“Proud history, what future?” read the A4 pieces of paper held up by large sections of the crowd. “It’s not pleasant is it?” admitted Black. “It’s not been overly pleasant I would have to suggest; I have only been here a couple of months but it’s not been enjoyable.”
- Ruben Loftus-Cheek bagged his first Premier League goal in his 11thappearance.
- Alexandre Pato is the sixth Brazilian to score on his Premier League debut, following Geovanni, Robinho, Gilberto, Ilan and Willian.
- Oscar assisted Pedro’s first goal within a minute of entering the field at half-time.
- Only Diego Costa (11) has scored more Premier League goals than Pedro (6) for Chelsea this season.
- Two of the five occasions Aston Villa have lost by four goals or more at Villa Park in the Premier League have come in 2015/16 (also 6-0 vs Liverpool).
- Chelsea have now set the longest unbeaten run of any team in the Premier League this season, going 15 games without a loss (W7 D8).
- Villa have lost seven consecutive games for the second separate time this season.
- Guus Hiddink remains unbeaten in the Premier League since he returned as Chelsea boss (W6 D8).
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