New signings Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly have performed well in the Italian team.
However, for all their dominance, they had just two goals to go with it and the game hung in the balance until Mason Mount added to first-half strikes from N’Golo Kante and Raheem Sterling in the 90th minute. Goal not included.
The Blues drew close to a team that faces Everton next week, with a squad of fringe players playing Udinese’s fringe and reserve team behind closed doors in another friendly tomorrow.
With the usual caveats that this was a pre-season friendly – and against a weak side in a weak league – here are the highlights from the match…
Kante and Mount will still be Chelsea stars in 2022-23.
Last season, Thomas Tuchel compared Kante to Mohamed Salah and Kylian Mbappe. This was not for his dribbling or finishing ability but for his status and importance at Stamford Bridge.
Not only did Kante show that those words were true at the Stadio Friuli, he scored a goal worthy of two superstar attackers.
Dribbling through the middle of the opposition, he drove 15 yards towards the opposition defence, before curling a weak left-footed strike into the far corner. The shot kissed the post and Marco Silvestri had no chance.
His 20th-minute strike capped a brilliant first 30-minute performance that reminded his team of what they had missed after he sat out the United States tour due to his vaccination status.
The France international almost added another wonder strike, turning Wallace in the 51st minute but seeing his curling edge from the box shot saved.
Along with Kante, Mount was setting up plenty of chances early on at his creative best, drifting into wide spaces and damaging the opposition.
He created the first chance after six minutes, playing brilliantly at Stirling, but after a good first touch, his shot was saved by goalkeeper Silvestri. He scored again in the 23rd minute for Kai Howertz though his effort was easily saved.
The 23-year-old almost scored twice from chances created by his England team-mates Reece James and Sterling.
Chelsea’s two-time player of the season tapped in a Callum Hudson-Odoi cross in the final minute to show he is well-prepared to continue in that vein.
Raheem Sterling deserved his stunning goal and looks fit enough.
The 27-year-old did not cover himself in glory when he tried to lob the goalkeeper after being alert to Jorginho’s through ball.
Yet, he still deserved the ricochet that fired the ball into the net in the 37th minute for Chelsea’s first goal after a laborious first-half display.
He also hit the post with a shot from the edge of the area in the 61st minute after an athletic run by Havertz.
Udinese chased his shadow through his intelligent movement, pace and natural fitness that led to a run to Serie A.
At times, it was difficult to understand what position Sterling was playing with him, dropping deep, running back and wide within the same match.
Each position was chosen with intelligence and purpose, helping to create space for the mount to pull the strings or the howitzer to get to the end of the cross.
In their third outing, in what will be Chelsea’s preferred front three against Everton next Saturday, something seemed to have clicked.
That doesn’t mean questions over the lack of a classic number nine striker won’t continue with both Havertz and Sterling as you’d like.
Koulibaly is a great addition but Chelsea need more.
Thiago Silva went down a couple of times in the first half and Cesar Azpilicuet looked active without his best performance amid talk of a move to Barcelona this summer.
Behind the two other leaders around, Kalidou Koulibaly looks like only a third and more than another in his prime who is fully committed.
He hasn’t been busy against a side he knows well but his interventions are often timely. Most notably, his slide cut off a Roberto Pereyra ball to Gerard Deulofeu late in the first half.
It was a rare moment when the 31-year-old performed most of his duels with control and dominance. After a good debut against Arsenal, despite a 4–0 defeat, he got the result to match his performance on the left of Tuchel’s back three.
Tuchel still has to work out a strategy.
Chelsea still looked less solid than they would ideally have liked with a simple counter-attack between Pereira and Deulofeu leading to a poor goal.
Eduard Mendy’s early save was put straight into the path of former Watford and Barcelona forward Deulofeu.
But what will really bother Tuchel is the lack of communication between the midfield and defence, which has forced Mount to attempt a recovery to prevent a lunge.
However, it should have been the job of the midfield to bring Pereira down or the defense to sense the danger and block his shot.
Udinese created more chances in the 59th minute with Issac’s successful goal but poor shooting was wide.
Chelsea’s pressing was largely good but Tuchel will demand perfection for his side to achieve their goals next season.