Chelsea – again – miss their chances
When looking back on the Blues’ 1-1 draw with Everton on Thursday night, the missed chances in the first half came back to bite Thomas Tuchel’s side on the backside.
Chelsea shouldn’t have been heading into the half time interval at 0-0. They created five clear cut chances to take the lead and Reece James stung Jordan Pickford’s palms with a fine free kick.
The home side had nearly 80% possession, had ten shots on goal and six of them hit the target but they couldn’t find a way past Jordan Pickford. Mason Mount (3), James and Christian Pulisic all spurned good chances.
The eventually made the breakthrough with 20 minutes to go when Mount finally managed to put one past Pickford, slotting home at the near post from James’ pass as Cobham made yet another Blues goal.
But just four minutes later, the home side switched off from a free kick and it was Everton’s academy graduates who combined for their goal. Anthony Gordon’s teasing cross found its way to Jarrad Branthwaite to steer past Edouard Mendy.
Saul Niguez, who had another rough night on the Stamford Bridge pitch, mis-timed his leap that allowed Branthwaite to score. Antonio Rudiger didn’t cover himself in glory either as he hadn’t tracked the Everton defender’s run.
Chelsea should have been out of sight by half time, it could easily have been 4-0 or 5-0 as they battered Rafa Benitez’s side, who set up with a five-man defence and had little indication of wanting to attack except for counters from Chelsea corners.
The Blues were shorn of four attacking players for the game as Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi were all ruled out after positive Covid tests on Wednesday. Kai Havertz was also ill but the club is still awaiting the results of his PCR test.
It showed as well. The front three was Pulisic, Ziyech and Mount and failed to knit together much at all despite Chelsea’s dominance. Too many moves broke down, too many final passes didn’t hit the mark and the home side’s rank finishing in the opening half clearly didn’t help either.
Tuchel said post-match: “Today we were not in the lead at half time. We could’ve been in the lead at half time, easy, but we were not. We have to be careful now – myself included – when we point the finger because it happens again.
“We have a huge chance to sit here after the same game and talk about a 3-0 and how impressive things are when we miss many players. It’s a huge possibility because it’s just one free-kick and we got punished again.
“If we look back, it seems it happens too often. We need to consider that when looking back you can make mistakes in analysing and finding patterns that are maybe not there. But you can be sure we will not look away.”
There certainly isn’t anywhere to hide for Tuchel and his players in the middle of a title race which they are starting to get ever so slightly detached from.
Jorginho encapsulates Chelsea’s frustrations as more ground lost on Man City and Liverpool
Chelsea had dominated proceedings and finally made the breakthrough on 70 minutes thanks to Mount’s opener as the England international’s goal lifted a mood of frustration on the pitch and in the stands.
Stamford Bridge – not full to capacity amid the backdrop of the worsening Covid crisis – had already started to make its feelings known to the players for a litany of missed chances and some very casual build-up play that bordered on slow.
Saul playing in the front three was as bizarre as seeing him play left wing-back against Zenit and he had a pretty torrid cameo. So did Barkley, who had nowhere near the impact Tuchel will have wanted from him.
Roundly booed by the visiting Everton fans of his former club, Barkley was too ponderous and slow in possession and earned the wrath of Tuchel, and those inside Stamford Bridge, more than once.
Jorginho continues to play through the pain for his club, simply because he has to. With Mateo Kovacic out, N’Golo Kante not fully fit despite returning to the bench on Thursday nigh and Saul not trusted in the middle, the Italian international is having to get through 90 minutes and is clearly in need of a rest.
His frustration boiled over with Ruben Loftus-Cheek after the Chelsea midfielder gave the ball away very cheaply with a misplaced pass and Everton countered. Jorginho, not the quickest, had to bring down Gordon and received a yellow card of his own.
Jorginho immediately gave an earful to Loftus-Cheek, who did arguably the right thing and looked the other way as his Italian teammate unloaded.
Jorginho really laboured in the final 15 to 20 minutes of the game and is in dire need of a break. Kante coming back to fitness will help but such is his injury issues that Tuchel can’t just throw him back into the fire against Wolves – if the game goes ahead.
With Covid cases starting to creep into Cobham and the Premier League being decimated by the virus with four games postponed this weekend already, we don’t know if Sunday’s trip to Molineux will go ahead.
Chelsea need to get out of this funk they are in of three wins in seven games but they might not get the chance to do it this weekend.
Squad players not quite hitting the mark
Hindsight is a wonderful thing when you are six months into the 2021/22 Premier League regarding what decisions were made in the summer in terms of incomings and outgoings.
Chelsea allowed Conor Gallagher and Billy Gilmour to head on loan deals to Crystal Palace and Norwich City. Gallagher has been a revelation at Selhurst Park but now cannot return owing to a clause in his deal.
For Gilmour, after a slow start at Carrow Road and the departure of Daniel Farke as manager, has shown exactly what he is capable of since the arrival of Dean Smith.
Chelsea and Tuchel were happy for the younger players to head out to gain experience on loan, which is quite right, and brought in Saul Niguez on loan to bolster the midfield.
That move has backfired somewhat as the Spanish international, who was out of favour in Spain anyway, has really struggled in the Premier League and isn’t in favour in west London either.
Tuchel put him in the front three, his third different position to play since joining Chelsea, and it didn’t pay off. You can make the argument that it was a square peg in a round hole and it certainly looked that way.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has deputised well in the absence of Kovacic and Kante in recent weeks but this match was one of his worse ones. Too often, the midfielder gave the ball away in advanced areas.
One cruyff turn to send Mason Holgate to a different postcode was a highlight for the academy graduate but it was more frustrating than not for the England man, as we have already mentioned he copped flak from Jorginho.
Marcos Alonso has to play with the absence of Ben Chilwell and put in a somewhat middling performance again. The Blues’ injured left-wing back, who has also tested positive for Covid-19, is being hugely missed down the left flank.
Ziyech and Pulisic did OK against Everton, especially in the first half, but were quiet after the break. The Blues and Tuchel need more consistency from their squad if they are to mount a serious title challenge.