The first round of Premier League fixtures this season concludes at the Bridge tonight. We complete our match preview by looking at past encounters and the prospects for West Ham's visit, club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton providing the information…
WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea are seeking to extend our unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge against West Ham to 12 games in all competitions. We have won eight of the last 11, but the Hammers were kings of the capital’s clashes in 2015/16.
East has travelled west for this fixture on the opening day of the season only twice previously. The first time, a 0-0 stalemate, was on 24 August 1963. The only other occasion is far more celebrated. Harry Redknapp’s visitors in 2000 boasted Paolo Di Canio, Frank Lampard and – a late sub – Joe Cole, and made some of the early running.
Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli had challenged his team to take a great start into what he hoped would be another title challenge, though, and once Shaka Hislop had thwarted the marauding Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink illegally, they showed their mettle.
Fortunately for the claret-and-blues, referee Graham Barber showed yellow where red was an obvious alternative, but recently recruited striker Hasselbaink sent the reprieved keeper the wrong way to make it 1-0 a quarter-of-an-hour before the break.
Di Canio equalised for the visitors shortly after the interval, against the run of play, but Gianfranco Zola restored the lead 10 minutes later with a sublime free-kick. The goal of the game came with 12 minutes remaining. New signing Mario Stanic juggled a bouncing ball, teeing up a 35-yard volley that sailed into the net in spectacular fashion.
Two late headed goals from corners – the first for Frederic Kanoute, the last another for Chelsea’s Croatian debutant – completed the 4-2 scoreline and hinted at defensive frailties on both accounts.
Half a century ago, the opening day of the season was a sweltering one. It was Chelsea who made the trip across town, with the cheers of England’s 1966 World Cup triumph at Wembley still resonating around the country.
That was especially the case at the Boleyn Ground, where there was even more of a knees-up because three of Alf Ramsey’s heroes were Hammers. It was also heavily rumoured the trio had tapped up the Blues brilliant keeper Peter Bonetti, an England teammate.
Before kick-off, Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst acknowledged hearty applause from all sections of the ground, including the packed away supporters’ enclosure.
Then the Blues spoiled the parade. Ironically the outstanding contributors would be two Scots: unfettered full-back Eddie McCreadie and scheming maestro Charlie Cooke. John Hollins opened the scoring 10 minutes before half-time, and although Ronnie Boyce pegged the visitors back just before the hour mark, the two points were Chelsea’s thanks to Cooke’s 71st-minute strike.
West Ham’s last win at Stamford Bridge was in September 2002. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink opened the scoring with a penalty but goals from Jermain Defoe and Paolo Di Canio either side of the break put Glenn Roeder’s side in the driving seat. Another wonderful Zola free-kick brought the scores level but a second Di Canio goal seven minutes from time secured West Ham’s first success of the season.
On this day in 1992 Chelsea benefited from the new law preventing passes back to the keeper. Oldham defender Marshall miscontrolled a clearance and debutant Mick Harford whacked the loose ball in off the bar from 25 yards – the Blues’ first ever goal of the Premier League era.
Other match last season
24 October 2015 Premier League
West Ham……..….…2 Chelsea………..…1
Zarate 17 Cahill 56
Chelsea v West Ham in all competitions:
Games played 105
Chelsea wins 47
West Ham wins 38
Head to head in the League at Stamford Bridge:
Games played 47
Chelsea wins 24
West Ham wins 12
Biggest league win at Stamford Bridge for each team:
09/04/1966 Chelsea 6-2 West Ham
29/03/1986 Chelsea 0-4 West Ham
Now that the phoney war of pre-season has ended, new coach Antonio Conte has to draw up his starting XI and substitutes for a first competitive match he knows will be under some scrutiny. His chosen formation will be examined and the result will resonate.
The fitness and sharpness evident this pre-season compared to last is quite marked. The 46-year-old Italian wants his players to perform with high intensity, retrieving the ball quickly and creating plenty of chances, and that takes fitness.
2015/16 Chelsea were slow out of the blocks and conceded lots of damaging late goals. Should they need an extra incentive, one player could net the club’s 5,000th top tier goal.
We had a glimpse of what to expect from a Conte team during the Euros. What was widely reckoned the ‘worst Italy squad for decades’ surprised many people (including a Belgium team featuring his future Chelsea charges Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard) with their defensive solidity and attacking flair. The Belgians, admitted our goalkeeper, were ‘outclassed’ tactically, technically and organisationally by the Italians – clearly he was impressed by his incoming boss.
Spain, with Cesc Fabregas and Cesar Azpilicueta in their ranks, were also beaten by the Italians. ‘Spain had the talent,’ said Conte afterwards; ‘we had the ideas. And ideas trump talent.’
Above all, what was most impressive about Conte’s tenure with Azzurri was the overall coherence of a team lacking superstars and including bit-part Premier League players. The Italians played as a unit, and that togetherness clearly included the manager and his staff.
The Lecce-born coach has experimented with various tactical set-ups in past weeks. The narrowed-down choices appears to be either a 4-2-4 or 4-3-3.
The ‘double spine’ 4-2-4 requires two strong centre-backs, midfielders and forwards. Against Real one of the attackers, in Diego Costa’s absence, was Eden Hazard. Assisted by central midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah and then new striker Michy Batshuayi, he latched on to through passes to score twice in 15 minutes.
The 4-3-3 (arguably 4-1-4-1) formation requires one player to handle the deep-lying role, dropping back into defence when required (for which new signing N’Golo Kante is well suited), with defensively aware central midfielders playing slightly ahead and wingers on either side pushed on. That midfield triangle was a feature of Italy and Juve under Conte.
Both systems demand tireless running, positional discipline and swift, dynamic approach play. Kante brings two-touch transitional play to the midfield, and the ‘blind’ flicked pass into the opponent’s half, a feature of pre-season, should have more impact when the wide attacking players’ movement is more familiar.
Kante made more tackles (175) and interceptions (156) than any other top-flight player last season. (He is our first signing from Leicester City since Dennis Rofe in 1980.)
Behind the Paris-born midfielder, everyone in defence should know his role, when to hold fast and when to break ranks to intercept attacks. It is at the back that perhaps the most question marks remain hanging from last season, and West Ham opened the scoring in both our meetings last term.
Promisingly for a Premier League bristling with midfield and attacking flair, Conte has strategies to stifle opposition threats, and the tactical flexibility the Italian prefers may be more possible with a talented side that won the league just two seasons ago.
On top of that, young players such as Ola Aina and Nathaniel Chalobah were hugely impressive in pre-season. It is vital the Bridge strongly backs our all-conquering Academy youngsters when they are handed their chance.
Our opponents West Ham’s swift, clever attacking players made a lot of Premier League sides suffer last campaign. To that they have added the forward Andre Ayew, signed following a successful first season in the Premier League at Swansea. On the opening day last season, of course, Ayew netted a first-half equaliser in the Swans’ 2-2 thwarting of the defending champions.
Ayew will be familiar with several players on the pitch this evening. Two seasons ago, he, Dimitri Payet and Batshuayi were all vying for a place up front for Olympique Marseille.
Victor Moses enjoyed a successful season-long loan at Upton Park in 2015/16. To fill the gap he left, the claret-and-blues have hired former Chelsea Academy man Gokhan Tore and fellow winger Sofiane Feghouli from Valencia, and made attacking midfielder Manuel Lanzini’s move from Al Jazira a permanent one.
If they are riveting going forward, the Hammers have been a little rusty at the back. They have conceded two or more in eight of their most recent games, and among those to have departed the Irons is centre-back James Tomkins, who has moved a little west to Crystal Palace. On Monday attacking left-back Arthur Masuaku joined from Olympiakos.
The ins and outs suggest manager Slaven Bilic is likely to stick to the approach that earned his team a Europa League qualifying round place. As his Euro 2016 punditry revealed to ITV viewers, the Croatian is a shrewd and pragmatic tactician, switching to a three- or four-man defence and two or three defensive midfielders depending on the opposition’s qualities. He likes versatile players and has, for example, used Cheikhou Kouyate as a deep-lying midfielder, winger and centre-back.
He is proactive, and uses structural strength in the middle to liberate creative attacking players such as Payet, Lanzini and Enner Valencia as much as possible. He likes wingers who stay wide and create space for others, hence the summer signings.
It is easy to imagine the Irons may be a little more competition-ready than the Blues. Their European involvement meant that, in the words of their manager, they had to ‘compromise’ their pre-season, most reporting back on 1 July – 10 days before Chelsea’s first roll-call of 2016/17. They already have two Europa League games under their belt and have the latest first-of-two-legs in only three days’ time.
John Terry suffered knocks to the head and neck in our 4-2 win at Bremen last weekend, but it may take more than that to prevent the skipper featuring against the local club of his childhood.
Kurt Zouma is making good progress on the way back from his anterior cruciate injury but is some weeks away from a return to the competitive arena.
Injury may rule Gokhan Tore out from a return to the club where he cut his teeth. Diafra Sakho, Manuel Lanzini and Aaron Cresswell are also likely to be ruled out. Dimitri Payet has only been back for pre-season a week but may see some action.