Football

Five things we learned from Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea as Enzo Fernandez sends clear message

Mauricio Pochettino

Chelsea are through to the fifth round of the FA Cup thanks to a 3-1 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park.

It was a much improved display for the Blues following their defeat to Wolves on Sunday as goals from Conor Gallagher, Nicolas Jackson and Enzo Fernandez set up a fifth round tie with Leeds United.

Here are five talking points from the game…

Villa’s bright start quickly turns sour

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This FA Cup fourth round replay under the floodlights at Villa Park started off with plenty of end-to-end excitement and the home side looked very dangerous going forward in the opening few minutes. But Chelsea were clinical in the final third and quickly killed the game by going 2-0 up before adding a third after half-time. The ease in which Chelsea played through Villa at times will be a big concern for Unai Emery, especially with a huge game against Manchester United coming up on Sunday.

Big response from Enzo Fernandez

The Argentinian midfielder has struggled to deliver on the enormous £107m fee Chelsea paid for him last January but showed what he is capable of with a brilliant second half free-kick into the top corner. His celebration showed how much it meant to him too – ripping off his shirt and running over to the travelling supporters to celebrate in front of them. It was a sign of relief and joy for the midfielder who, with rumours recently circulating around his future, appeared to signal to the supporters that he is staying put by pointing at the ground.

Gallagher goal a reward for his hard work

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The England midfielder has established himself as one of Pochettino’s favourites since he took over in the summer thanks to his hard work and tenacity in midfield. He might not always deliver in the final third but did tonight with a wonderfully taken opener into the top corner – his first goal of the season. It was a reward for his tiresome work in the middle of the park and he will hope he can contribute with more goals for the remainder of the season, as he did during his loan spell at Crystal Palace.

Cup wins easing pressure on Pochettino

Chelsea’s form in the league has been well below expectations and there has been little improvement under Pochettino compared to last season’s dismal campaign. But their form in the cups has been a shining light – reaching the final of the Carabao Cup to play Liverpool later this month and now making it into the FA Cup fifth round to face Championship club Leeds. The success of Pochettino will likely be determined by what he dodx in the league but there are at least more positive signs outside of their league campaign – which is easing the pressure on him too.

Chelsea looked much more balanced

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It was a much improved and almost unexpected display from Chelsea to comfortably beat a team who have been far better than them in the Premier League this season and who have been excellent at home. There was a good balance to the team with the individual players Pochettino named in his starting 11 complementing each other well.

The midfield duo of Enzo and Moises Caicedo played closer together and were more effective while the attacking full-backs in Malo Gusto and Ben Chilwell were supported well by the central defensive duo of Axel Disasi and Benoit Badiashile thanks to their recovery pace. And in attack, Cole Palmer linked things brilliantly in the first half by combining with Nicolas Jackson and the dangerous Noni Madueke. Encouraging signs and perhaps food for thought for the Chelsea boss when it comes to the rest of the season.

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