Injury-hit Chelsea face an unwanted replay with Aston Villa after a goalless draw in their FA Cup fourth-round clash. The Blues will go to Villa Park in a bid to advance in the competition, although Mauricio Pochettino will feel the tie should have been wrapped up at Stamford Bridge. Express Sport picks out five talking points.
Noni Madueke misses two big chances on rare start
This perhaps should have been the game Noni Madueke took by the scruff of the neck. Twelve months into his Chelsea career, the England U21 winger is yet to properly stamp his mark in west London.
Madueke is battling with Mykhaylo Mudryk for a place in Pochettino’s preferred 11. The former PSV youngster would have done his chances a world of good by finishing off two huge first-half chances.
The first saw him played in after a good exchange from Conor Gallagher and Cole Palmer, but he was denied by Emi Martinez. In an even more inviting chance, he somehow failed to convert a Raheem Sterling cut-back.
Alfie Gilchrist lives up to John Terry billing
Pochettino awarded 20-year-old defender Alfie Gilchrist just his second senior start, with Levi Colwill suffering an injury in the warm-up. Gilchrist was positive, bringing the ball forward and advancing into central areas.
The academy graduate is highly-rated within the walls of Stamford Bridge. Club icon John Terry believes the youngster has a bright future.
Speaking at a fans’ Q&A event, the former Chelsea captain said: “Alfie Gilchrist is a really really good player. He’s got an unbelievable attitude. He’s been at the club since the age of eight. He performs so well on a daily basis and I think he’s got a good chance.”
It is credit to Gilchrist that he has forced his way into the first-team picture despite a raft of big-money signings. He can become a genuine option for Pochettino over the coming months.
Pressure raised on Mauricio Pochettino
A dismal showing in the Premier League will have prompted Chelsea’s hierarchy to insist on excellent cup performances. While Pochettino has guided the Blues into the Carabao Cup final, it would not be unfair to point out that the draw handed them a relatively easy path.
When it came to breaking down an in-form Premier League team in Villa, Chelsea struggled. Pochettino keeps urging for patience but a board that has proved capable of sacking two managers in 18 months does not afford that benefit.
Chelsea meandering in and out of games is an issue
Chelsea started poorly at Stamford Bridge. Villa piled pressure on the Blues in the opening exchanges and Douglas Luiz had a goal disallowed for a handball in the build-up.
Pochettino’s side then regained control and maybe should have been ahead at half-time, with Madueke’s chances a key point in the first half. But Chelsea were unable to maintain their dominance in the second half.
It is becoming a facet of their struggles that they fail to control the entirety of a match and will often seem to lose concentration. Individual quality has at times bailed them out, particularly at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea need to become a team able to assert authority on a game.