Chelsea had a reason to be cheerful heading into Saturday’s fixture at the Olympic Stadium because just days prior they secured Champions League knockout status with a draw at home to a lacklustre Atletico Madrid, finishing Group runners up in the process. A win against West Ham would ensure that they made ground on the top 2 with the Manchester derby taking place a day later. However, David Moyes’ got his first win in charge of the East London club which all but ensured that Chelsea’s title chase was more or less useless, with a deflated Antonio Conte stating this in his post match press conference.
Bakayoko was in a midfield two with Kante with both playing behind Fabregas who was in number 1o role. When Chelsea had possession, Bakayoko made runs from deep into advanced areas. This interrupted the passing networks to & from the likes of Fabregas & Hazard, causing both to either be too close to Bakayoko or have to drop into the space he vacated to receive the ball. By doing this he also left Kante to protect the back 3, this encouraged & aided West Ham’s counter attacks. Although this didn’t result in Chelsea being punished in transitions, had they faced a team with better counter attacking ability it would be extremely likely for them to have been so. Bakayoko has done similar in other games this season, with the United & Newcastle games as previous examples. It isn’t clear enough to say whether Antonio Conte hasn’t paid any attention to this or if Bakayoko is ignoring instructing but there’s sufficient evidence to suggest it is a mix of both.
West Ham’s deep block
Whenever they weren’t in possession, West Ham took up a 5-4-1 shape. This created a central congestion which left Chelsea no choice but to attack mainly from wide areas. Additionally they were vertically & horizontally compact, shifting quickly from side to side in accordance to the ball’s position. Their wide centre backs (Reid & Cresswell) would step into midfield whenever Hazard or Morata picked up the ball just outside the box, forcing them to give up the ball. Furthermore the midfield pairing of Mark Noble & Pedro Obiang who did excellently in stopping any penetrative passes from Chelsea’s players. This has been a second consecutive week of good defending by West Ham after their unlucky defeat to Manchester City the week before. Chelsea’s inability to break down the deep block is largely due to the fact that they lack high-quality passers in the final third.
Wild finishing costs Chelsea
When it comes to the fact that they didn’t score, Chelsea can only have themselves to blame. They had 19 shots, 2 on target & an xG value of 1 (using Match of the Day’s xG). The last two figures in comparison to the first prove that Chelsea’s chances were all either created in compact areas or their shot conversion was abysmal. It is clear that Chelsea rely on Hazard, Fabregas & Morata to score or create most of their goals & when they can’t it hits the squad hard. Michy Batshuayi’s most significant moment of the game was putting a hot water bottle to his face whilst Willian & Pedro barely made an impact.
With the Champions League draw taking place on Monday, the Blues can draw one of Besiktas from Turkey, Barcelona or PSG (no rewards for who Conte would want). This is the time of year when the fixtures come thick & fast as they face Huddersfield away from home on Tuesday before hosting Southampton the following Saturday. Antonio Conte also said after the game that his squad looked ‘tired’, this is something that the Italian won’t want heading into period where fatigue is a drag back. Their season doesn’t need ‘saving’ per se but it can certainly do with a remedy.