Joe Edwards was left bemoaning the inconsistencies that have characterised his side’s league season following a home defeat to Swansea City on Friday night.
However, our development squad manager countered that frustration by claiming such conflicting displays were simply part of development for one of the youngest teams in Premier League 2. The Blues started well at Aldershot but found themselves in the familiar position of trailing at home, the eighth occasion in nine league games this term, as Keston Davies headed the visitors in front after just seven minutes.
Edwards pinpointed a lack of quality in and around the box as the difference between the teams and Swansea sealed the points with an individual moment of brilliance when striker Liam Cullen fired into the top corner from the edge of the area. The fact he beat Richard Nartey, the defender deputising in goal after Jamie Cumming limped off injured once the hosts had made all their substitutions, was ultimately immaterial as Cumming himself would have struggled to keep out such a fierce strike.
‘The feeling in the dressing room from the players and myself is just one of real frustration because it’s another home game that epitomises the season we’re having, where consistency has been a big issue for us,’ Edwards told the official Chelsea website after the game.
‘I can’t question our work-rate or intensity without the ball because that was really good. All the players worked incredibly hard and our pressing was aggressive but it was our quality that let us down all over the pitch. We wanted to build on what was a positive performance last time out at Derby but we were too sloppy in too many moments.
‘We actually started well, looked sharp and the movement was good but then we conceded a really basic goal from a set-play. All the players were in position and we had the defender marked but he got on the end of it and the ball is suddenly in the back of our net. It’s the simple things that are costing us because we should stop that.
‘The second goal was an outstanding strike but we just don’t seem to produce moments of that quality in home games and again it’s cost us. We didn’t look like scoring and it wasn’t because their goalkeeper had a fantastic game but because we weren’t productive enough in and around the box.’
The result means the young Blues have followed every league win this campaign with either a draw or defeat and that inability to fashion a winning run sees them fifth in the table, seven points adrift of the leaders and eight clear of safety. Addressing their inconsistencies remains a challenge, though the manager was quick to defend the application and desire of his players.
‘I would never question the mentality of this group because I see how hard they work every day and the commitment they have to work in games,’ he said.
‘The issue we keep coming across is producing our quality on a consistent basis but we have to remind ourselves that inconsistency is a common trait in young players and we do have a young team.
‘It demonstrates to us the importance to keep working on the basics because it seems to be our final ball and end product that we’re lacking. It’s another incredibly frustrating night but there was nothing wrong with the effort of the players so I feel disappointed for them rather than disappointed with them.’
Edwards takes charge of our Under-19s next time out as our UEFA Youth League campaign resumes with a play-off tie against AS Monaco at Cobham this Tuesday 19 February. The play-off round pits group stage runners-up against the eight teams to have progressed from the domestic champions pathway, with our youngsters falling into the latter category, and winners advance to the last-16. The Blues were runners-up to Barcelona in the competition last season and lifted the trophy in both 2015 and 2016.