A crucial win for Chelsea on Sunday has ensured a battle for top four honors. The win over Liverpool keeps hope alive heading into the final week of the season.
Meanwhile, Tottenham suffered a shock defeat to relegation-bound West Brom. The Blues close the gap to just two points, three points behind the Reds with a game in hand.
Liverpool were clearly feeling the after-effects of their hard-fought Champions League semi-final clash with Roma. Despite going through to the final, Jurgen Klopp’s side lacked sharpness at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea taking full advantage.
Antonio Conte opted for a midfield-three to counter the Reds’ devastating attack. With Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante and Teimoue Bakayoko deputizing the middle of the park. This strategy worked wonders for the Italian as the home side’s narrow shape and numbers in the center of the park nullified their opponent’s attacking prowess. Leaving them restricted to crosses from outside the box.
Surprisingly, one of the standout performers in midfield was summer signing Bakayoko. Having disappointed for large parts of the season, the Frenchman was considered a liability by fans.
Although, this weekend’s showing might have turned a few heads.
Disappointing first season
Bakayoko has failed to live up to the high expectations garnered through his dominant performances for former club Monaco last season.
The midfielder has seemed lethargic and disinterested during majority of his appearances, while also lacking awareness and focus.
It was difficult to figure out what sort of position actually suited the 23-year-old. Possessing little attacking abilities, the young midfielder did not provide much defensive covering either.
A lack of awareness often caused the French international to surrender possession cheaply, get tackled and commit clumsy fouls.
One explanation could be the injury Bakayoko was carrying at the start of the season. Which might have caused a delay in the midfielder adapting to the English game.
However, continually producing poor displays has caused many fans to lose patience with him.
Promise for next season
Fast forward to this Sunday and Bakayoko looked like a man transformed. Having returned from a second spell out due to injury, the tall midfielder bossed the midfield and looked sharper than ever.
There were barely any loose touches, unnecessary giveaways or fouls. His touch looked assured and he looked like a threat upfront as well. He was able to take charge with the ball at his feet and was able to make marauding runs into the opposition’s half as he was known for during his time in the Ligue 1.
On two occasions during the first half, Bakayoko managed to get into good positions in Liverpool’s box but was not able to take advantage.
However, signs were promising for the Chelsea faithful.
Could this mean that he is finally injury-free? Or is this purely a mental thing? It is more likely to be the former.
Another aspect that could have helped his game is the adoption of a midfield three with Kante and Fabregas supporting him. This could be the key to bringing the best out of Bakayoko.
It might be too late in the season for a resurgence. Such a performance would have definitely done his confidence a world of good and provided promise for the new season.
Conte will be hoping to see more of it for the remainder of the games as the Blues push to snatch a Champions League spot.
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