Chelsea 1-1 Norwich – Three talking points
With the exception of Arsenal vs. United in the ’99 FA Cup semifinal, this had to be the most bonkers 30 minutes of extra time I have ever witnessed. This game had everything:
- 21st century controversy over video review
- rogue refereeing
- a penalty save
- a raging Italian
- two red cards in extra time
- a penalty shootout
Chelsea survived by the skin of its teeth. Norwich put up a game effort capped by Jamal Lewis' late equaliser. The FA Cup is not the glorious competition it once was but these two sides didn't get the memo. Here are three points of interest from a match that could keep you talking for weeks.
Shallow under the Bridge
Chelsea's depth issues were on full display in this one. The Blues’ poor summer dealings have come home to roost. Conte oversaw expenditures amounting to £185 million over the summer. The return was just five players. As in £37 million per. In the meantime, eight players with the quality to be in a Premier League squad, if not first-team, were sold for £107 million. That does not include Diego Costa, by the way.
So, when transitioning from a year without European football to one with, Conte trimmed the squad down rather than beefing it up. The Italian has complained he hasn't been given support in the market. Perhaps he has a legitimate point.
After using the least amount of players last season, adding strength in depth should have been the club's aim. Defending its title and competing well in the Champions League depended on new investment.
Chelsea eventually became the one Premier League team from five that did not win its group. Consequently, it must face Barcelona in the round of 16. One or two players may have made a difference that would have led to a more favourable draw.
Chelsea did spend second-most among Premier clubs in the summer. For all that it was unable to seal any of its first-choice targets. Not Romelu Lukaku. Not Alex Sandro. Not Andrea Belotti. Only halfway through the season, this side already looks tired.
Antonio Conte’s recent battles in the media with Jose Mourinho have overshadowed his side’s issues but they’re still present. Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard are not getting on the scoresheet, nor has the midfield dominated as it did last season. Opponents have found answers to the 3-4-3. Conte needs to ask new questions.
Morata less than expected
In two games against Norwich the Spaniard scored exactly zero goals. He had multiple clear-cut chances to finish this tie but could not take them. Being sent off pretty much summarised his game. For a Chelsea fan, the Spaniard has become very frustrating to watch. Costa was an irritant. He could frustrate opponents as well as his manager. But he finished. Morata is not finishing. He is the one irritated, rather than the opposition. Conte should be regretting his little note to Diego last summer.
Morata's recent record in the league does not read particularly well considering his price tag. He’s only scored three in his last 15 appearances. The lack of confidence is evident. His record is good overall but does not really reflect his campaign. Half of the dozen goals he’s scored this season were in his first six appearances. While more productive than Henrikh Mkhitaryan the Spaniard's output has followed a similar pattern. Manchester United is in the process of offloading its Armenian midfielder. Chelsea hasn't the depth or willingness to spend to follow suit.
Officiating is difficult with or without VAR
On Tuesday, we saw how VAR can right a wrong. On Wednesday we were taught it is still subjective.
Willian was unquestionably tripped. It was clear for all to see. After VAR consultation not only was the penalty not given but the Brazilian was booked for simulation. Both the pitch and video booth seemed tipped in Norwich's favour.
Graham Scott was fortunate Willy Caballero was able to save Norwich’s first penalty. With everything else that occurred, his personal safety would have been in doubt. On the night he was certainly the most hated man in the SW6 area.
This week's FA Cup replays comprise a very small sample size for a new policy. There is much work to be done, however, else FIFA will not be close to prepared for the backlash that will surely come in this summer’s showpiece.