Chelsea will head to Wembley again after securing their place in the FA Cup semi-final with a 2-0 win over Sheffield United.
After beating Atletico Madrid in the Champions League midweek, Thomas Tuchel’s men weren’t at their best against the Premier League side, but they did what was required.
The much-changed Chelsea side took a 1-0 lead midway through the first half, when Oliver Norwood turned Ben Chilwell into the net.
Blades were supposed to equalize in the second half, when David McGoldrick headed the ball from close range.
Substitute Hakim Ziyech scored a goal to finish the second half in the first half of Chelsea and put the Blues ahead 2-0 in stoppage time.
Here are five talking points from Stamford Bridge.
1. Notable Pulisic Man Shine
The American struggled this season to overcome a hamstring injury and Chelsea Number 10 is the first to admit that this wasn’t his best campaign.
Tuchel admitted that in his early months, he might not have offered Pulisic many opportunities to impress others because he has known him since their days in Dortmund together and has been cautious about the player’s injury issues.
But in the starting line-up here, Pulisic was excellent. His movement and dribbling posed all sorts of questions and the Blades team – particularly George Baldock – often resorted to corrupting the American international to stop him.
One piece of skill in the second half, a cheeky flap that she saw dodging three opponents, was exceptional.
If a player who scored for the Blues in last year’s final returns to his best before the end-of-season round, that bodes well for the team’s hopes in all competitions.
2. A new role for Emerson
Tuchel chose to start with Chilwell and Emerson in his starting line-up.
The left-back did not start playing in the middle of the week, as Marcos Alonso nodded against Atlético de Madrid, although the latter was a late substitute and scored a goal with his first participation to clinch a 3–0 win on aggregate.
Once again, the Blues held on to the 3-4-2-1 lineup that served them well under the German, meaning a new role on the left side of the three backers for the latter.
Throughout his time at the club, he looked better at moving forward then when asked to defend, but he’s been good here in that regard, with good positioning the whole time.
He also diligently used the ball, his speed and natural inclination to propel leftward allowing Chilwell to really press and assisted Chelsea in high pressure.
3. Sheffield United’s season was well explained
The blades weren’t that bad here. They looked like a low-confidence team, as you’d expect, but they got a lot better in last weekend’s 5-0 win over Leicester.
The longer the game with a 1-0 score for the hosts, the more pressure Yorkshire would forward. They backed off and posed questions to the team’s defense, forcing Tuchel to make changes in defensive thinking.
But only up to a point. They missed the few opportunities they had created when they came; David McGoldrick is the main culprit after a header from six yards when scoring seemed easier.
Despite all the decent play, these bright opportunities were few and far between.
4. Gilmore proves Tuchel’s point of view
Tuchel blocked a loan move for Billy Gilmore in January.
Tuchel admitted this week when asked if it was a mistake: “The choice was made for Chelsea and not for Billy’s personal goals. He accepted that in a five-minute talk, and he had no problem with that.
“I actually hope he knows how much I appreciate him as a person and as a footballer.”
The young Scot has not played that much under the German national team – he is the fourth choice behind Matteo Kovacic, Georgino and Ngolo Kante in the midfield rotation – but his manager is a huge fan. He pleaded with Scotland to take him to Euros this summer.
Here, Gilmore showed why. He was neat, tidy, and aggressive and did whatever midfielders Tuchel wanted.
His future will definitely be at Stamford Bridge.
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5. 11 hours … just did that
Chelsea’s Achilles heel under Frank Lampard undoubtedly had their defensive problems.
Tuchel has largely resolved these issues, and at Stamford Bridge their line of defense remained unbroken under the former PSG coach.
After only an hour had passed, they exceeded 11 hours without relinquishing the homeland.
Not many would have counted that this happened when Tuchel intervened to replace his predecessor.
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