5 Things Learned: Brentford 0-2 Chelsea | Carabao Cup – Sports Illustrated

A COVID-ravaged Chelsea faced off against Brentford in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup, a competition the Blues last reached the final of in 2019, and last won in 2015. With several first-team players testing positive in recent days, and injuries to the likes of Andreas Christensen, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ben Chilwell, debuts were afforded to teenagers Harvey Vale, Xavier Simons and Jude Soonsup-Bell. 

Brentford were happy to soak up pressure in the first-half and look to pounce on the counter – and squandered a beautiful opportunity to take the lead on the 11th minute when Kepa denied Yoane Wissa’s header from close range, before further fine saves from the Spaniard in the 31st and 39th minute. Harvey Vale also missed a superb chance just before half-time on his debut for the Blues.  

Jorginho and Christian Pulisic were introduced after the interval, followed by Mason Mount and Reece James, taking the tally of Cobham involvement on the night to six on the night, before N’golo Kante entered the mix with 15 minutes left. The latter two players combined with 10 minutes left to force a Pontus Jansson, before fellow sub Pulisic won a penalty quickly after, which Jorginho calmly converted in typical fashion. 

With a ninth Carabao Cup final in sight, the club’s fifth since 2007, Chelsea will surely fancy their chances in the competition, and the opportunity to win Thomas Tuchel’s third trophy in West London. 

1) Kovacic return is a massive positive

Mateo Kovacic missed eight league games and three Champions League games through a combination of injury and COVID, but his return to the midfield is fabulous news for Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea fans alike. The Croatian looked proactive and energetic in midfield, misplacing just one of 63 attempted passes, before he was replaced by Jorginho at half-time. The midfielder’s return to form, combined with the return of N’golo Kante, are both to be enjoyed – their recent absences strongly felt in draws to the likes of Wolves, Everton, Zenit and Man Utd. 

2) Harvey Vale excellent on debut 

Harvey Vale made his professional after previously being included on the bench, and is a highly rated prospect in Cobham circles. After the sales of Lewis Bate and Tino Livramento in the summer, the club will be keen to keep hold of the 18-year-old, who is versatile in a number of positions. Vale’s movement in the first half was sharp, winning three of six ground duels, and looking to make things happen in the final third, before he was replaced by fellow graduate Mason Mount after the hour mark. 

Imago / PA Images

3) Trevoh Chalobah quickly becoming reliable stalwart 

It’s hard to believe Trevoh Chalobah only turned 22 in the summer – the defender quickly becoming a regular face in the Chelsea starting XI, having recently played his 100th professional game. Chalobah provided seniority alongside Xavier Simons and Malang Sarr at the back, and is the Blues’ 11th most used player so far this season. While Chelsea will surely pursue defender Jules Kounde again, Chalobah has rightfully claimed an important place in the squad regardless of the Sevilla man’s incoming. 

4) Ross Barkley’s bluntness frustrating 

Ross Barkley has only played just over 400 minutes for Chelsea this season, and is yet to register a goal or assist. The midfielder undoubtedly has a unique element to his game – his drive and long-shot ability, but his lack of output and end product in the final-third has been falling short of the required level. With Barkley’s contract expiring in 2023, the midfielder could use a move away, potentially on loan, to increase his fortunes, in the way that Jesse Lingard did in January 2021, allowing him to re-enter the England set-up. 


5) Win is a huge result for Chelsea

After just two wins in seven in December for Chelsea, this win over Brentford and progression into the latter depths of the Carabao Cup will be a massive confidence booster for the side. The combination of the inclusion of the academy trio, alongside the ability to bring the experienced Jorginho and N’golo Kante off the bench in the second-half, is crucial to Tuchel in terms of squad management in a busy schedule. Chelsea fans now hope the side can truly build up some momentum after a typically poor December month. 

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