Perception wise, there is a huge difference between a 3-0 loss and a 4-0 loss. In that respect, Chelsea‘s 3-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie was not a blowout. But watching the 90 minutes, it certainly was. And had Bayern converted more of their chances on goal, they would’ve scored, four, five, or maybe even six goals.
Chelsea Brutally Exposed In Champions League Home Loss To Bayern Munich
Second Half Explosion
From the opening whistle, the German side put the pedal to the metal. They cut and sliced through Chelsea’s midfield with ease and started taking shots at the error-prone Willy Caballero in goal. Thomas Mueller, Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, and Kingsley Coman looked hungry for goals. Famished in fact.
As the first half went on, the Blues started to grow into the game a bit and provided their own tests for the Bayern defense. A few shots on target, a few set pieces, and Chelsea clawed their way back into the game, ending 0-0 at the half.
But in the second half, the Bavarians showed a much different desire, a more relentless one. All the passing through the Blues they did in the first half looked like a child’s play compared the ruthlessness of the attack in the second half.
And very quickly, it got ugly for Chelsea. Serge Gnabry renewed his London goal scoring exploits, having scored four at Tottenham in the group stage, in the 51st and 54th minutes and there was no looking back.
Robert Lewandowski added a third with 15 minutes remaining, but by that time, the game had already been decided. The little attacking threat the Blues showed in the first half went completely silent in the second.
Converted Canadian left back Alphonso Davies torched the English side all night on the left flank and burned just about every Chelsea player for pace at one point or another, including Andreas Christensen for the third goal which Davies assisted.
Chelsea Tactical Failures
This was always going to be a tough tie for Chelsea to advance from. Yes, Tammy Abraham started on the bench as he hasn’t returned to full fitness, subbing on in the second half. And Olivier Giroud, who started and held the ball up brilliantly against Bayern, and Michy Batshuayi aren’t exactly adequate back-ups.
Yes, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and N’Golo Kante missed through injury and had they been fit, they probably would’ve made it a closer game. Still, Bayern would have been the favorites and probably still won. Or at least they would’ve recorded some away goals.
Despite the lengthy injury list, Chelsea are a lesser team than the Germans. Moreover, they were set up to fail by manager Frank Lampard and his tactics. That sounds harsh and it’s not meant to be a slight, more of an observation.
Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho have grown into an incredible double-pivot partnership in midfield this year. However, asking those two, especially Jorginho, who has little pace, to handle five Bayern attackers was an unimaginable task. And because of it, Bayern passed through them. Even in the second half, they pushed Chelsea’s wing-backs very deep almost creating a back five.
Chelsea’s tactics turned into an unmitigated disaster over the 90 minutes even though Lampard sent out the team with a clear plan in mind. The problem, he expected a back three from Bayern as well, which they played against Paderborn this past weekend.
So, when Bayern packed the middle of the park, Lampard, unfortunately, hung his two midfielders out to dry. Chelsea now have a massive hole to dig themselves out of. With the injuries, Jorginho suspended for the second leg due to yellow card accumulation, and Marcos Alonso out after receiving a straight red for violent conduct when he hit Lewandowski in the face, it’s almost a lost cause.
Champions League Cherry
Going back to the beginning of the season, Chelsea had one goal – qualify through the Premier League for next year’s Champions League. Anything else, Champions League knockouts this year, a domestic cup, or anything else, would have been a bonus. A cherry on top.
With that in mind, Chelsea are still on pace to accomplish their preseason goal. The loss to Bayern, while devastating in showing the stark difference in quality between the two sides, shouldn’t cause Chelsea to hang their heads.
They took the pitch with a plan in place and attempted to execute that plan. Unfortunately, they had the wrong plan and it came back to bite them hard. And because of it, Chelsea have a massive uphill battle in the second leg, heading to the Allianz Arena in Munich trying to overturn a three-goal deficit.
If they miraculously comeback, bravo. If they don’t, no harm no foul. Chelsea have had their eyes on one prize all year, the Premier League top four (or five, thanks to Manchester City’s Champions League ban). Losing to Bayern in the round of 16 doesn’t affect that one iota.
Of course, defeats hurt and no one will be smiling around Chelsea the next couple days. So, while Bayern painfully swept them aside, ultimately, Chelsea’s exit will likely aid them in reaching their one preseason goal.
Unless of course the other Premier League teams take note of Bayern’s tactics and expose Chelsea as well. If that happens, they might be in a world of hurt. And Frank Lampard may start to feel the pressure as well.