Chelsea produced a shocking comeback on Saturday against Southampton, having gone 2-0 down at the St Mary’s. However, a tactical change from Antonio Conte as he brought in Olivier Giroud and Pedro in the second half in place of Alvaro Morata and Davide Zappacosta turned the game heads on, and it was Giroud who was the game changer as his brace helped secure the three points.
Chelsea legend Pat Nevin believes that tactical switch from the Italian was the catalyst for Chelsea’s comeback.
He wrote in his column for the official Chelsea website: “After a soporific performance for the first hour on a warm, spring day out at the South Coast, suddenly there was an injection of urgency. It is hard to know why it was so sleepy to start with but when it changed it was like watching a different sport.
“So why did it suddenly all change? The obvious answer is of course the substitutions made by Antonio Conte after we went 2-0 down and that was certainly the major part of it. Olivier Giroud was strong, robust and fired up which seemed to immediately affect everyone else in blue. His near-post header was as classic a Giroud goal as you will ever see. I have said it many times before, even back when he was at Arsenal, he is the best in the business at scoring from in front of the near post.
“They always say that strikers should get themselves in between the posts when the crosses come in, but for him the two or three yards in front of that area is perfect because of that ability to flick or redirect it behind his position at an angle, with pace and with plenty of accuracy towards the goal.
“To say it was all down to that substitution is however, to my mind, a little bit harsh on Alvaro Morata. For the vast majority of the match he battled manfully, generally against three centre-backs on his own, with very little help or protection. Give Southampton their due, Maya Yoshida, Wesley Hoedt and new man Jan Bednarek took it in turns to rough up Alvaro and by the hour mark he was getting seriously frustrated and more than a little tetchy. Olivier was indeed stronger when he came on but by then the defenders’ rough-house treatment was being dialled back. The referee had started throwing yellows about like business cards from a desperate used car salesman, and Olivier took advantage of that. The defenders tired a bit too and of course that big dollop of nerves which coursed through those in red and white became a crucial factor as the game wore on.”