ONE’S A WRITE-OFF, TWO’S A WORRY– WOLVES vs CHELSEA– FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
After weeks of flying high on the back of an impressive unbeaten run, Chelsea have come crashing back to Earth following their second Premier League defeat on the spin against Wolves at The Molineux. The Blues have got a harsh reality check in their chase for glory, after having themselves pinned as one of the contenders for the coveted Premier League title.
Frank Lampard started with his strongest available XI, with Christian Pulisic back in the side following another battle with his sensitive hamstring, and his team made a solid, if not sparkling, start to the game. Chelsea moved the ball around with purpose and caused the Wolves’ back 3 problems going forward. The Blues were the better team overall in the first half and were unlucky not to have scored when Kurt Zouma towered over the Wolves defence and sent his header crashing against the crossbar. Chelsea did, however, get their lead early in the second half courtesy of a brilliant Olivier Giroud volley from a Chilwell cross, with the ball squirming under Rui Patricio and just about rolled over the goal line. The Chelsea goal seemed to galvanize Wolves, who attacked with a greater impetus following the concession and the pressure told when Daniel Podence, reminiscent of a certain Eden Hazard in his style of play, bamboozled the Chelsea defence and scored a magnificent equalizer. Chelsea looked tired and, even though Lampard made two changes post the equalizer, we were unable to stop Pedro Neto from netting the winner in injury time to condemn us to a second consecutive defeat.
Here are the five things we learned from the game.
- AWFUL TIMING FROM THE BLUES
With a hellish schedule lying ahead of them, Chelsea could not have picked a worse time to lose two games on the spin. After an encouraging and impressive unbeaten run and, perhaps premature, talks of a title challenge, Chelsea have been firmly handed a reality check, first against Everton and now Wolves, as the momentum has come to a sudden halt. Games will start to come thick and fast during the festive period for the Blues and, if they don’t nip the mini slump in the bud, they may find themselves slipping down the table faster than Adama Traore’s sprints on the wing. Fatigue certainly played its part in Tuesday night’s defeat at the Molineux, with Lampard acknowledging the fact in his post-match interview. Fortunately for Chelsea, they boast a much stronger squad this time and Lampard will be hoping the fringe players grab the rare opportunities they will be afforded during the congested festive period.
- LAMPARD’S GAME PLAN
From the get-go, the game plan from Chelsea was clear: target Wolves’ right side, Nelson Semedo, in particular. Lampard unleashed a fit-again Christian Pulisic against the Portuguese defender and it worked like a charm in the first half. One of the main reasons Barcelona chose to part ways with the former Benfica man was his vulnerability in defence. Semedo loves to drive forward and join attacks given an opportunity and that leaves a gaping hole at the back. Nuno compensated for this by reverting to a back three, affording him an extra cushion, but Semedo struggled to live with Chelsea’s overload on his flank throughout the first half. This was further underpinned by Chelsea’s goal, which came from his side of the pitch with the overlapping Chilwell’s cross slammed home by Giroud. Semedo recovered well in the second half but, for large periods of the game, it looked like Lampard got it spot on tactically.
- WHAT’S GOING ON WITH TIMO?
Timo Werner had a slow start to his life in West London, in terms of scoring goals. The German did not put the ball in the back of the net until his fifth game in the Premier League, against Southampton. Werner has predominantly played on the flanks for Chelsea, either to accommodate in-form strikers or to cover for injured wingers. Eight goals and four assists in 20 appearances is, by no means, a poor return for an attacking player however, of late, Werner’s performances have dipped significantly over the past few games. His last Premier League goal came against Sheffield United before the second international break and he has missed a host of glorious chances created by his teammates for him. Most notably, the ones against Rennes in the Champions League and an unbelievable miss against Leeds United in the Premier League. His overall performance has been below par as well with him struggling on occasions to link up with Chilwell or the leading striker and has been largely anonymous in Chelsea’s defeats against Everton and Wolves. Fatigue has certainly been an issue as he’s played nearly every game so far for the Blues and Germany and there have been questions whether his position on the flank is the right one to get the best out of him. While he’s not the only player who has been poor in the last two games, Chelsea and Lampard will be hoping he finds his form and fast with crunch games just around the corner.
- REINFORCEMENTS REQUIRED OUT WIDE
With the football seasons getting shrunk as a result of the pandemic, clubs’ squad strength has been put to test this season. Injuries are mounting due to fixture pile up and clubs are already scouring the market for reinforcements. Not unlike most other clubs, Chelsea have their injury woes of their own, particularly out wide. Pulisic has been in and out of the side due to his ongoing battle with his hamstring, Ziyech pulled up unchallenged against Leeds United suffering a hamstring injury of his own and, to make matters worse for Lampard, Hudson-Odoi made a hamstring hat-trick, getting injured during training. Chelsea felt the need of a wide man severely during the recent defeat against Everton. Werner has filled in time and again on one of the flanks, while both Havertz and Mount have struggled when played out of position in the wide areas. With Chelsea allowing veterans Willian and Pedro to leave the club in the summer, there’s a clear lack of depth in the winger department for Frank and Co. While Declan Rice has been the top target for Chelsea for some time now, the need for another winger is becoming more apparent than ever if Chelsea are to maintain their push towards the upper echelons of the Premier League table, while maintaining their status in Europe.
- ANYONE’S SEASON
Time and again we have been hearing and reading about the impact the pandemic has had on football and the clubs across the globe. With 10 months of football getting crammed into eight, two international breaks and next to no pre-season for the clubs, the league tables across Europe have seen a massive shake up. The so-called ‘big clubs’ are struggling to balance their domestic and European commitments, with their squad strength being tested to the limit. The usual suspects who would typically be expected to be near the summit are struggling to make the top three. Premier League has been no different. With nearly a third of the season out of the way, no one can bet on any particular club to win the league or a guaranteed top four finish. The league table is so tight that only eight points separate 1st and 10th. There have been bizarre results, ‘big’ teams dropping points at a canter and ‘small’ clubs pushing for European places early on. For Chelsea, the good part is, despite losing two in a row, they will still be within touching distance of a top four spot by the end of the game week. The bad part is, drop any more points and they may well find themselves in all the wrong places in the league table. The time has come for Frank Lampard’s men to show whether they’re contenders or pretenders.
Written by- Manan (@MananCFC)
Cover photo- Football365