PLATT: Chelsea defeat shows why Jonathan David's future lies away from Lille
After the high of a spectacular international window for Canada, club football has brought Jonathan David back down to earth.
The 22-year-old has now gone seven games in all competitions without a goal for Lille following their 2-0 defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday.
It has been tough going for David since the winter break, with a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain and this loss to the defending European champions the biggest disappointments.
But that reflects the team Lille has been this season — sitting 11th in Ligue 1, they are having a far poorer domestic season than any other side in the Champions League knockout stage.
Many of their shortcomings, and the way in which they are inhibiting David’s game, were on show at Stamford Bridge.
Lille did not disgrace themselves in west London. They actually might have had more of a say in the game than many expected, pressing high and attempting more passes than they did in any group-stage match, home or away.
But their aggressive approach was not without its drawbacks. When Chelsea was able to beat the initial press, they found all kinds of space behind it in the Lille half. Christian Pulisic’s second goal came directly for an example of that, with N’Golo Kante magnificent in spotting and exploiting the gaps, while Kai Havertz’s first was off a corner earned after a similar break upfield.
Pulisic makes it 2-0 for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge 🔵 pic.twitter.com/NiLRPQmXqd— DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) February 22, 2022
And though Lille had plenty of the ball, their approach did not work out in possession, either.
The first problem was that by trying to defend higher up the field, Lille did not force Chelsea to commit numbers forward in a way that the likes of David and Jonathan Bamba may have been able to exploit on the counterattack.
Instead, they repeatedly tried to pick apart the organization of one of the world’s best defensive teams. Unfortunately, they did not seem to have any great plan as to how to do so beyond giving Renato Sanches a free role and hoping he could conjure up a moment of magic.
In the first half, Sanches was very good. Lille's most promising attack was his attempted through ball to David, who had made a run across Thiago Silva, but the pass was overhit.
Minutes later, Sanches drew three opponents into the touchline and then released Amadou Onana into space in the middle. David sensed the danger immediately and made a decoy run across the Chelsea defence, forcing Andreas Christensen to follow him and leave a big gap for Bamba to dart into. But Bamba stood still, and Onana unsuccessfully attempted to force a pass through to David instead.
This was a persistent feeling: that despite the best efforts of their stars, there were some players in the Lille team that were simply not good enough to make the most of whatever small windows of opportunity Chelsea might present them with.
That is not to absolve David of any criticism. Games like this are a reminder that he still has work to do to ascend to the next level, particularly against organized defences when space is at a premium.
He also needs to be stronger physically against a centre-back like Thiago Silva: at least three times, David went down appealing for a foul he was never going to get in a Champions League knockout match.
But the evidence is mounting that in order to take that next step, David will need a better supporting cast, one closer to that which Alphonso Davies has benefited from at Bayern Munich.
That will come in the summer. First, he and Lille will look for a way back into this tie on March 16.