The Football Castle provides an in-depth analysis of Chelsea’s victory over Rennes on Matchday four. 

Chelsea needed to win this game to secure early qualification into the next rounds of the UEFA Champions League while Rennes had to win to give themselves a fighting chance in the group. In the first leg of this tie, Chelsea did not particularly play better than the Brittany side but a dubious penalty decision and a red card put the game in Chelsea’s hands. Rennes have two wins in their last 10 games while Chelsea rides their momentum of six wins from six. It was expected to be the London club’s day but Rennes did not make it easy.  

Mason Mount Continues to Show He Is No Teacher’s Pet

There has been a lot of debate around Mason Mount’s place in his club and national team but Mount continues to deliver on the pitch. The 21-year-old can be decent anywhere he plays but his natural position is in midfield. He presses well, moves well with the ball, he can break lines with his passing and movement. Mount also has good short-range and long-range passing with an incredible engine to boot, and a tenacious work-rate that all his coaches speak about.

He is every coach’s dream. 

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To doubt his technique is to make a grave mistake. He may not be the most aesthetically-pleasing player but he does all the good things well. Even a club like Ajax that is known for its emphasis on technique understands how good he is. Before his move to Derby County, Ajax tried to sign Mount after his incredible season at Vitesse. 

Against a very physical midfield, Mount displayed tenacity, drive, and vision. He harried Jérémy Doku for the ball and had the vision to execute a magnificent pass for Hudson-Odoi to finish for the first goal. He possesses an incredible engine for a player in his prime, much-less a youngster on the rise (Mount played the most minutes for Chelsea last season and looks on course to do the same this season). 

The murmuring does not get to him. The questioning of his quality, the comparisons to Jack Grealish who does not even play in the same position as Mount. The classification as a teacher’s pet due to his connection with Frank Lampard. He dismisses them. The truth is that if you have a youngster as technically-gifted, versatile, and hardworking as Mount, you play him. 

In one particularly pleasing moment, he ran the channel between the central defender and the right-back and as Silva stepped out to cover him, he looped the ball over Silva and used deft control to take the ball away from the retreating Camavinga before laying a pass to Kovačić. He also drew a miraculous save from Alfred Gomis in the first half. It was a man-of-the-match performance that reinforces what football minds like Jack Grealish and Lampard already know – that Mason Mount is a terrific footballer.

Rennes Cannot Rescue Themselves

Little cheer for the Rennes mascot in an empty home stand. (Stephane Mahe/ Reuters)

Rennes had their moments against Chelsea. Towards the end of the first half, they began to grow in confidence and form worrying combinations for the London side but they could not get anything. In the second half of the game, they were even more dominant and dangerous. Nzonzi was dominating the middle with his long legs, Doku was giving Chilwell all sorts of headaches, and Guirassy was proving a handful for Silva but they could not find a way in. Bourigeaud had been peppering Chelsea with wicked deliveries and Guirassy put one into the back of the net in the 85th minute. They deserved it but it did not last.

Substitute Clement Grenier lost the ball to Kanté in the middle and this started the move for Chelsea’s winner. It was heartbreak, football is cruel. 

They face Strasbourg this weekend and they can do some damage limitation against a team that is 19th on the Ligue 1 table. They still have a shot at Europa League entrance too but this season has not been great for them. 

Wasteful Werner

Timo Werner will never stop getting chances because he never stops making penetrating runs but his finishing can be awful sometimes. He has a habit of missing a couple of chances before sticking one or two into the net. Werner has eight goals and four assists in 14 appearances for Chelsea but against Newcastle and Rennes, he missed good chances to score. 

Against Newcastle, he missed some important chances to seal the game before going on a long run to set up Tammy Abraham for the second goal. 

Meanwhile at Rennes, he missed a glorious chance set up by Hudson-Odoi in the early minutes and looked off-pace throughout the game. This could be due to fatigue seeing the high amount of games he has played in this season but wastefulness has always been a part of his game. Hopefully, he can iron it out, if not it might cost Chelsea a game.

Rennes Continue to Develop Great Goalkeepers

Edouard Mendy
Edouard Mendy had a good performance at his old stomping ground. (Stephane Mahe/ Reuters)

Petr Čech is arguably the best goalkeeper in Premier League history. He has the most clean sheets (202) and this is despite retiring earlier than most keepers. 

Čech played for Rennes for two seasons before making the move to Stamford Bridge where he has collected record after record. Most clean sheets in a Premier League season, most golden gloves, most clean sheets for one club, etc. When Chelsea needed to replace Kepa Arrizbalaga after a woeful 19/20 campaign, Čech, who returned to the club as a director was in charge of that mission.

Édouard Mendy has been a revelation and a stabilizer at Chelsea. The blues currently tie Manchester City for the best defensive record across Europe and Mendy is a big reason for that.

Rennes replaced Mendy by making another signing from Dijon FCO in Alfred Gomis and they have not missed a beat. Incidentally, both are Senegalese goalkeepers. 

Gomis has been impressive for Rennes, delivering commanding performances like the man before him. Against Chelsea, he pulled off an incredible save from Mason Mount, clawing out a ball that was heading into the net. He also saved Werner’s dying minute chance and was irritated when his defenders did not react fast enough to the rebound, allowing Giroud to score. 

Olivier Giroud
Olivier Giroud rises to head in Chelsea’s late winner. (Dave Winter/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock)
Giroud Will Not Go Down Without a Fight

Olivier Giroud is not the most skillful or dazzling footballer, he is an effective target man and in football, that is a dying breed. Last season, he had to bide his time till Tammy Abraham was off form before getting an extended run in the side and this season, it looks like it will play out the same way. Giroud came on and saved Chelsea in the dying minute of extra time with a towering header, proving that he still has a lot to offer. 

Giroud is only seven goals shy of the most goals scored for France and his club career is still going. Do not count him out. He has a mental resilience that makes his coaches admire him. With Werner enjoying the left side, Giroud could get more opportunities deputizing for Abraham and he might even usurp him before the season ends. 

Giroud will have an amazing career to look back on, but for now, he will fight to extend that career at the highest level possible.


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