Fringe players fail to take their chances as lethargic Chelsea draw at Norwich
Chelsea were held 0-0 by Norwich City during a highly forgettable encounter in the third round of the FA Cup.
The much-changed Blues side started slow and were rarely able to shift gears against the Championship outfit. There was little incident of note in the first half from either side, with neither goalkeeper forced into making a save. The game was played at a surprisingly sedate pace, with Chelsea lacking movement and Norwich happy to keep a solid shape.
The second half flickered briefly to life for 15 minutes after the break as Chelsea looked to be more proactive. Willian was at the heart of Chelsea's invention, taking on defenders and showing a willingness to shoot, with one deflected effort drawing a smart save low from Angus Gunn. David Luiz fired a free kick just over, Tiemoue Bakayoko shot wide and Davide Zappacosta almost sent a dipping volley just inside the post in stoppage time, but a draw and the inevitable replay was the fair result.
At no point in the match did Chelsea ever look in danger of conceding. A solid back three protected by two midfielders meant that there was little room for Norwich to exploit.
While the lack of cohesion might be explained by the nine changes made by Antonio Conte, the lethargy and absence of any tempo from their play could not. Many fringe players were given a chance to impress and failed to take advantage of their opportunity. Norwich might have been well-organised, but the quality of those in blue should have been more than enough to pry them apart.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- With this match sandwiched between two meetings with Arsenal, the decision to leave the likes of N'Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard in London made perfect sense. Occasionally criticised for not giving others a chance, the manager was not repaid for placing faith in those seeking more first-team opportunities.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Willy Caballero, 6 -- Unlike Thibaut Coirtois, the Argentine does not inspire confidence. While untroubled by any actual shots, he did somehow fail to claim a simple cross, opting instead to punch and watched the ball unintentionally spin away from him to the feet of an opposing player. Thankfully, the shot went well wide.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Was given a decent test by the pace of Josh Murphy in the first half before settling down. Used his strength and intelligence to snuff out a late breakaway and turned a potentially dangerous situation into a goal kick.
DF David Luiz, 7 -- Apart from one instance of being caught in possession on the halfway line, this was a comfortable return to action for the Brazilian. His excellent vision and range of passing was not matched by the runs of those in front of him.
DF Gary Cahill, 7 -- Was spun by Alex Pritchard in the first half, but that was as tough as it got for the England international. Was harshly booked in the second half for fractionally misjudging a 50-50 challenge.
MF David Zappacosta, 7 -- Although a fairly one-dimensional footballer, there is no doubting his desire and determination. Never shirked the opportunity to take on his opposite number and showed once again that he has a hammer of a right foot with two dipping volleys catching the eye.
MF Danny Drinkwater, 6 -- One of those that did not make the most of his opportunity. Gave the ball away cheaply at times, though was not helped by the lack of movement ahead.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 5 -- Another timid performance from a player who keeps struggling to impose himself. There were a couple of decent challenges and one good run in the second half, but not enough to mask a disappointing display.
MF Kenedy, 6 -- His dependence on his left foot was his weakness with a couple of glimpses of goal erased by refusing to shoot with his right. Had few problems defensively and sent in one lovely cross in the second half but did not have the impact he would have liked.
FW Pedro, 6 -- Normally full of energy and always providing an outlet, this was an unusually anonymous outing. Made little contribution.
FW Willian, 8 -- Perhaps the only forward player who was reasonably effective. Took players on and probed forward, but did not see his efforts rub off on his teammates.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 5 -- The Belgian appears destined to be a super-sub, as he rarely delivers when he starts. Didn't hold the ball up or link with his teammates, meaning that Chelsea failed to get a significant foothold up the pitch.
FW, Alvaro Morata, NR -- Played on the shoulder of the defender and posed a threat without ever testing the goalkeeper.
FW, Charly Musonda, NR -- Looked busy without doing anything of note.
DF, Dujon Sterling, NR -- Showed enough dynamism in his brief cameo to suggest bright things ahead.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.