With the game at the Bridge taking place before either of the Manchester clubs Chelsea knew it was a golden chance to make ground on their Northern rivals. After dispatching David Wagner’s Huddersfield in mid-week the Blues were high in confidence heading into the fixture. Chelsea were kept at bay for large parts of the game, this can be attributed to Southampton’s ability to be stubbornly tight in their own half. Luckily an amazing free kick from Marcos Alonso clinched his side the game. Despite getting unlucky with various efforts (including Hazard’s wonderful offside goal) it seems as Chelsea’s luck is just enough to get them through games.
Alonso to the rescue
The only goal of the game came from a free kick by Marcos Alonso on the stroke of half time. This has been the 2nd free kick he’s scored this season. Underrated in Chelsea’s system, he helps breaks down teams by offering width & back post crosses to the likes of Alvaro Morata & Michy Batshuayi. Him being a set piece specialist whilst also being defender allows Conte to field him without having to drop an attacker (who are mainly the set piece men). Although he divides opinion between many Chelsea fans he has been a consistent fixture in the side with fatigue being the only thing that could possibly halt his form. Alonso has played all 18 of Chelsea’s league games this season & with Baba Rahman not yet fit, Chelsea may struggle to keep him fresh over the festive period.
Hazard leads the line
Chelsea played with Hazard leading the line with Pedro & Willian either side of him. As Morata or Batshuayi weren’t starting it was clear that Chelsea were going down the patient, more technical route rather than the quick & powerful one. Hazard’s ability in tight spaces allowed the home side to navigate the tight lines of Southampton’s block. The Belgian won 3 fouls during the game & also scored (an offside goal). His contribution for someone in an unnatural role was quite good. In the short term Chelsea can probably get away with Hazard as a false 9 but over the course of this season one must only hope this isn’t a long term idea. Hazard is a better creator than a finisher so if he’s kept up front, his overall product may decrease.
Chelsea’s back 5 live dangerously
Chelsea’s defence were allowed to push up the pitch due to Southampton conceding space by sitting deep in their own half. The away side rarely threatened as they only had 2 shots on target all game. Ward-Prowse came inside to create central overloads whilst Redmond rarely beat Victor Moses out wide. This enabled Chelsea’s wingbacks to get high & wide too, furthermore Bakayoko was roaming into advanced areas as usual. All 3 of Chelsea’s centre backs regularly stepped into midfield to create attacks from deep. They rode their luck to an extent as they were tested by the occasional long ball, giving the back 5 something to think about. They were lucky not to concede as a better counter attacking team would have punished Chelsea.
With their league cup quarter final fixture against Bournemouth fast approaching it will be a good chance to get fans onside as the Blue chase yet another trophy. Before their Premier League meeting with London rivals Arsenal on January 3rd, the face Everton away, Brighton at home on Boxing Day and then host Stoke on New Years Eve to close out 2017. The transfer rumour mill continues to turn on the futures of David Luiz and Willian with some newspapers suggesting Conte will consider the pair go if the right offers come in.