Jorginho saw his late penalty cancelled out by Casemiro’s header with Kepa Arrizabalaga not able to prevent the ball from crossing the line at Stamford Bridge.
Vulnerable at the back?
Having not been alerted to any new injuries in Graham Potter’s Friday press conference it was a surprise to see Kalidou Koulibaly absent from the squad to face Manchester United entirely. There was a consideration that he may have simply being offered a proper rest, as Ben Chilwell received against Brentford but it soon became clear there was a problem.
“He just felt his knee at the back end of the game against Brentford,” Potter revealed ahead of the game. “It’s not too bad but it’s too soon for him to play in this game.”
Potter added: “We lost Koulibaly, so we can’t play him, and then we’ve got a couple of players returning who recovered against Brentford. Thiago couldn’t play in the week. So it’s a case of managing the load and managing the games and picking a team that can be competitive and hopefully win the game.”
What was clear without Koulibaly, is that Chelsea had no central defensive option on their bench at Stamford Bridge. There was no room to manoeuvre and not a great deal of room for rest and rotation with the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta deputising and Marc Cucurella deputising across two position.
The Blues will be hopeful that Koulibaly’s return is swift, but his absence just proves how close Chelsea are to being quite vulnerable with injuries to Reece James and Wesley Fofana already during such a busy period.
Potter isn’t afraid to be ruthless in his decision-making
It took potter 36 minutes for Potter to realise he had enough of seeing Chelsea’s midfield be too easily passed through despite the close attention Ruben Loftus-Cheek appeared to be paying Christian Eriksen. The Blues were not outclassed but certainly conceding possession and chances at a higher rate than they will have liked.
Cucurella was the man substituted, as he didn’t make it to the second period for the second time in as many starts. That would provide a greater risk to the summer signing’s morale but despite the difficulty of the decision, Potter was prepared to do what he thought was best for the match.
Following the game, Potter outlined his reasoning: “The sense in the game was that we were getting a little bit overrun in midfield and we needed an extra player in there to create a bit more pressure and stop them building their attacks, and therefore making it harder for us to build ours. It’s just a feeling I had. It wasn’t an easy decision to make at all but the boys responded really well and gave everything.”
Kovacic still carrying his knee injury
Two matches in a row Kovacic has been utilised from the bench during the opening half, twice he has had an impact, so why not start him? The answer from Graham Potter, that he was still carrying a knee issue is probably not what Chelsea supporters were hoping to hear.
The 28-year-old saw a slow start to his pre-season tour with a knee problem that led to him training alone in the USA, and ultimately was out injured versus Tottenham before carefully being reintroduced to the starting XI earlier in the season. Pushing an important player so close to the edge is far from ideal.
Shots on target are a struggle
It may be little surprise that the most drawn fixture in Premier League history was not a festival for goals but with the match into stoppage times, Chelsea supporters might have dared dream that they could come away victorious for the first time in 10 matches against Manchester United.
That Jorginho’s penalty was the Blues’ first shot on target, was probably telling however and could leave few with complaints when Casemiro netted his late equaliser. Chelsea had limited chances on target versus Brentford too and the west London side’s ability to to test the goalkeeper was often a key struggle Chelsea had under Thomas Tuchel.
Potter’s side are unbeaten in eight since their new head coach arrived but it just goes to show that all issues are not easily solved.