After a chastening defeat on the road which led to Antonio Conte throwing in the towel in the title race, Chelsea were back on the bike and on their way to play Huddersfield. A 3-1 victory brought the Blues level on points with second-placed Manchester United, for 24 hours at least. Despite the shock of losing to West Ham, Chelsea showed no signs of lingering trauma and outclassed their hosts in every department.
Here are our thoughts on a much-needed win.
#1 Missing: One Wingback
David with an ‘E’, Davide Zappacosta was nowhere to be seen when the teams were announced, which was strange, considering there was no news of him being injured or ill. One can only hope he hasn’t joined his namesake from Brazil on the naughty step. Meanwhile, the ones who did play started out in a 3-4-3 formation, with Hazard playing as a false 9 flanked by Willian and Pedro. Bakayoko and Kante were the midfield duo and in defence Conte opted for his favoured trio of Azpilicueta, Christensen and an other. The other here turned out to be Antonio Rudiger this time. With Morata out of contention, the straightforward choice would have been to replace him with the only other available striker, Michy Batshuayi. As it turns out, Michy only made the bench.
#2 The Batshuayi Business
Bought in the summer of 2016 for £33 million, the Belgian striker has suffered from the fact that he’s not Romelu Lukaku or Alvaro Morata. When you’re not starting a game even when the only competition for your spot is unavailable, you need to make a decision. And decision time might be as soon as January. Chelsea are already short of strikers trusted by the manager and would almost certainly try to buy one in the winter transfer window. That should provide Batshuayi with the opportunity to go out on loan for the rest of the season and try to get some game time before the world cup. It’s a strange one, the Batshuayi situation. Cesc Fabregas found himself in a similar position not too long ago with one foot out the door, but since then he’s been able to make himself an important part of the team. Michy would also need to do whatever it takes to rescue his Chelsea career otherwise it might just be better for the club and the player to go their separate ways. He did himself no favours with an ineffectual performance when he came on after 68 minutes.
#3 Guess Who’s Bak
It might have only been Huddersfield, but it was only West Ham over the weekend and that went well, didn’t it? Tiemoue Bakayoko had his first good game for Chelsea in a very long time. There were no stupid fouls, no giveaways in dangerous areas and no passing it to the man in the stands. The 23 year old Frenchman has been given the opportunity by his manager to play himself into form and it certainly seemed to bear fruit against Huddersfield. A well-taken goal was just the beginning of a strong showing from a much-maligned player. He’ll only get better.
#4 The Brilliance Of Willian
Much like Bakayoko, Willian has been heavily criticised for his inconsistency and supposed lack of quality this season. For the first time since he spurned the advances of the Lilywhites and moved to Chelsea, Willian had a hand in three goals in a Premier League game. His two assists to go with his first headed goal may not have been enough to win him the official Man Of The Match award, but Eden Hazard, who had a terrific game himself without even scoring or assisting, certainly thought the Brazilian was a more worthy recipient. And who are we to argue?
#5 The Kids Are Alright
Andreas Christensen is phenomenal. There are no two ways about it. In his 80 minutes on the pitch, he attempted 98 passes and completed 96 of them. A 98% passing accuracy is mind-boggling, not to mention the number of duels and tackles he wins. He bailed out Courtois when the ‘keeper committed himself to a challenge but the ball went over him and was already on its way towards goal. And although the last-minute goal ruined the clean sheet and Thibaut’s mood, it had more to do with Rudiger losing his man than a mistake by Christensen or Ampadu. Did I not mention Ampadu? The 17 year old Welsh international made his Premier League debut as a substitute and played in defence. Much like Christensen, Ampadu is calm, composed and seems to relish in taking responsibility. He is vocal and doesn’t shy away from barking orders to his more illustrious peers. He is certainly a leader in the making.
The Saints come marching in on Saturday, and a performance like this should ease any fears about dropping out of the top four.