Chelsea booked their spot in the next round of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win over Aston Villa in their fourth-round replay. With pressure mounting on the shoulders of Mauricio Pochettino, the nature of the victory could not come at a better time for the Argentine.
The Blues opened the scoring in the 11th minute through Conor Gallagher, with the England international firing his strike into the top corner after good work from Nicolas Jackson out wide saw him teed up on the edge of the area. Jackson then doubled his side’s lead 10 minutes later with a neat cushioned header following a cross from Malo Gusto.
Enzo Fernandez put the game to bed with a sensational free-kick in the 54th minute to send the away supporters into a frenzy. Villa grabbed a consolation through Moussa Diaby, but it was too little too late for Unai Emery’s side. Express Sport takes a look at five key points from the match…
Jackson finds new role
With Jackson failing to impress when leading the line for Chelsea in the opening stages of the season, Pochettino may have struck gold in finding a new role for the 22-year-old. The Senegal international played out on the left wing for the Blues against Villa, and he enjoyed plenty of joy out on the wing, with Cole Palmer deployed as a makeshift striker. Jackson’s days as Blues star appeared numbered previously, but he may have a lot more to offer as a winger.
Chelsea fringe star gives Pochettino a selection headache
Noni Madueke has struggled for regular minutes since joining Chelsea, but the winger justified why he is worthy of being a regular inclusion for Pochettino’s side with a stunning solo display Villa. The ex-PSV star produced an excellent display down the right, using his pace and trickery to craft open numerous chances and leave Alex Moreno chasing his shadow.
Caicedo x Fernandez partnership shows potential
Questions have been raised about the quality of both Moises Caicedo and Fernandez so far this season, but the pair appear to bring the best out of each other when both deployed as a double pivot. The duo provided a strong, balanced base for Chelsea’s attacking players to build up from, with Caicedo also being given the defensive help in midfield that he has cried out for during the opening stages of the campaign.
Fernandez addresses speculation with celebration
Speculation has swirled over the past few days that Fernandez is hoping to leave Chelsea in the summer but the midfielder did all that he could to shut down that speculation on Wednesday night. After smashing his free-kick past international teammate Emiliano Martinez, the midfielder took off his shirt and showed the back of his top to the adoring supporters before pointing to his chest and then the ground in a strong statement that he was set to stay with the Blues.
Chelsea display will only paper over the cracks
The Blues were nothing short of excellent at Villa Park on Wednesday night, though it may not be enough to save Pochettino from the ever-growing pressure mounting on him. Aston Villa looked a different team to the side who have asserted themselves as top-four contenders in the Premier League, and Emery will be furious with how his team capitulated. With Chelsea 11th in the table, a win over Crystal Palace could be just as important as Wednesday’s clash.