Why Chelsea will be undroppable for West Ham

Why Chelsea will be undroppable for West Ham

Thursday evening felt big for Noni Madueke.

After scoring a fine goal against Aston Villa a few days before, there were plenty of eyes on the 22-year-old winger to see if he could continue his form. That, in a nutshell, has been the problem for him since signing for Chelsea almost 18 months ago. Consistency. Or lack thereof.

When Madueke is not performing in an attacking sense, he has often been criticised for his work off-the-ball. In fact, just over 24 hours before, Mauricio Pochettino called on the England Under-21s international to improve when his side do not have possession.

“He is doing well,” Pochettino said on Madueke on Wednesday. “He scored against Aston Villa, he is improving a lot without the ball.

“The challenge for him is to improve without the ball, to be more connected in the defensive side. He can [do that]. I hope he can take advantage of the possibility to play more until the end of the season.”

Against Tottenham, though, Madueke improved drastically in that regard. It was a performance that encapsulated his recent progress and the fact he is maturing with every single game. Pochettino noticed it and singled him out.

That in itself speaks volumes because Pochettino rarely singles out players after matches. “Noni Madueke today, for me, [was] unbelievable,” the Chelsea head coach explained following the win against Spurs.

“If you analyse him from the start of the season; all the conversations and meetings, clips and videos, things like this. He was capable today of doing a fantastic job with the ball – of course, he is an offensive player – but without the ball he is doing a fantastic job helping Alfie [Gilchrist] defend. That is what we need for the future, to build this competitive spirit.”

Chelsea’s injury situation, that sees the likes of Raheem Sterling and Carney Chukwuemeka sidelined – and Christopher Nkunku, although the France international is close to making his comeback. Either way, Madueke would be keeping his place in the side with the way he is playing at the moment.

There is so much talent there. He has speed in abundance and the way he dribbles with the ball, with such power and velocity, makes him an absolute nightmare for full-backs in one-versus-one situations. The key for Madueke is to focus on what he does when he is not dribbling at players and that is something Pochettino seems to be drilling into the winger.

There is a short video that emerged online after Chelsea’s win against Tottenham that saw Pochettino and Madueke enjoying a light-hearted exchange, although the head coach was clearly giving him instructions on how to improve. One of the numerous reasons Pochettino was appointed Chelsea boss was because of his man-management expertise – something he is well renowned for in the world of football.

Players like Madueke need that more than most. The talent is there but mentality and work-rate are both things that have been previously questioned. Progress for the winger and he will be hoping to continue that against West Ham United on Sunday.

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