Chelsea’s draw with West Ham on Sunday was the first time Maurizio Sarri didn’t experience victory.
Having won their first Europa League match 1-0 at PAOK, Chelsea toiled for a goalless draw at the London Stadium.
With two games with high-flying Liverpool coming up – one in the EFL Cup and the other in the league – I spoke to Tony Sheavyn on his views on all-things Chelsea.
On Chelsea’s start to life in the Europa League:
“It’s been quite an interesting week. Thursday night football was back, with a very strong starting XI put out in Greece to try and ensure a good start to the group.
“The outcome was three points however, what effect did it have on Sunday? Especially with the delay in returning to the UK because of weather.
“In the Champions League, 50% of your games are played on the Tuesday and 50% on Wednesday, whereas in the Europa League, you will only ever have two days to recover, which is something that Sarri needs to consider over the next five group games.
“Personally I would have started more of the squad players.”
On the draw with West Ham:
“West Ham were always going to be difficult to play against. It’s never an easy game for us, and yesterday was no exception.
“We started off very well, but couldn’t find a way pass their ‘bus’ and with Eden [Hazard] not 100% at the races for the first time this season, we lacked the sparkle, especially in wide areas, where our final delivery from Willian, [Cesar] Azpilicueta and [Marcos] Alonso was dire.
“Late on in the first half, Kepa [Arrizabalaga] had to make his first proper save since his arrival. The second half was more of the same. We lacked the killer touch, although you have to feel sorry for [Alvaro] Morata, who did everything right with his first touch of the ball, but was kept out by the face of Fabianski.
“They could have nicked it, when the header went wide, which highlighted Alonso’s defensive frailties. He was too interested in appealing for offside in the lead up to be worried about trying to defend.
“The other consideration is where do we play Kante? He’s the best defensive midfield player in the world, bar none – a mobile Makele if you will – but Sarri wants a ball-playing quarterback – i.e. Jorginho – which I agree with, and I’m not sure Kante is at his best arriving late in the box.”
On the upcoming games vs Liverpool:
“This week we have two different games against our ‘friends’ from Merseyside. I can’t bring myself to mention the city they come from. For the EFL Cup, we should definitely change our sid, and give the squad payers – plus one or two youngsters – the experience.
“We have Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu who are both 17/18 who would thrive in the ‘marvellous atmosphere’ of a Wednesday night at Anfield. Both have the ability to start, and should be given the chance.
“On Tuesday, it will be interesting to see if our other young player currently plying his trade with Frank Lampard at Derby County is given the chance to play at Old Trafford. Mason Mount has scored five goals already this season from midfield, and at the moment has got everything.
“He also has been given a great start by being with Frank and Jody [Morris] for a season. Really hope next season he takes the learning from the Championship and stays with us.
“Saturday 5.30 in most people’s eyes is when Liverpool come to Stamford Bridge, for which should be a great game. Can we keep their front three quiet? I think we desperately need Antonio Rudiger fit as he is probably the quickest centre back in the Premier League, and his pace will be required, especially with Mane and Salah who both play quite narrow.
“We need our centre-forward, whoever it is (hopefully Morata) to be on his game, because I’m pretty sure they’ll score. We are now faced with two games a week up until Christmas – as are everyone else. We’ll now see who has the best 25 in their squad to cope.”