Chelsea continue to make the same mistakes to leave Graham Potter fearing the sack
It was an all-too-familiar tale for Chelsea as they were beaten 1-0 by Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon. Possession, chances, hope, but nothing to show for their performance. A free-kick from James Ward-Prowse towards the end of the first half was enough for the struggling Saints to pick up a shock three points at a stunned and then furious Stamford Bridge.
“I thought the response in the second half was good and I thought we deserved a goal,” Graham Potter told reporters after the full-time whistle . “We created enough chances to score. But when you don’t, then obviously it’s difficult to win matches.”
Chelsea had 17 attempts, with just five of them on target on Saturday afternoon, but the Blues were unable to find a way past Gavin Bazunu. Instead it was the Saints who took the points at the Bridge in something that Chelsea have almost become used to this season.
The Blues are unable to find a way past a low-block, which is a tactic the majority of teams in the league use when they come to west London to face them. Southampton were the latest to do that and to be fair to caretaker manager Ruben Selles, his game-plan worked perfectly.
Look at the difference in the two teams’ heatmaps. Southampton spent most of their time on the edge of their own box trying to stop the onslaught of Chelsea attacks in the second period. The more the game went on, the deeper the Saints defence stood and the more difficult it became for Chelsea to find any space between the lines.
It’s nothing new to the Blues, it’s happened for years at Stamford Bridge but in the past they have been unable to find a successful route through. It happens to every top team in the Premier League. However, the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal – this season, anyway – have been able to break the opposition down.
When teams deploy the low-block, it usually leaves space out on the wings and that was the case on Saturday. However, with Chelsea starting the left-footed Noni Madueke on the right and the right-footed Mason Mount on the left, they were both tempted to cut in all of the time, making the space on the wing pointless essentially.
Joao Felix was not his usual self and that was because of the tremendous job Ward-Prowse and Romeo Lavia did of restricting the Portuguese to precious little. Felix still managed to register three shots – the second-most of any Chelsea player on the day – but he definitely wasn’t as effective as he had been in his previous three games.
Chelsea know that trying to break into the half spaces – the space between the centre-back and full-back – is key to getting through a low-block. They were, however, unable to do that often enough.
That would hsave been up to David Datro Fofana , Felix, Madueke and Mount, but the four attackers struggled to find space on the day. Having no Reece James , who was being rested, was also an issue for Potter.
When you bring out such an attacking talent, it is going to leave its toll on the side, although his reasoning for resting James is understandable. Cesar Azpilicueta does not offer the same attacking impact as his teammate, so the right-hand side was not a particularly dangerous area for Southampton to worry about.
Quite simply, Chelsea’s passing needs to be quicker and slicker. Against the Saints, there was too often when the ball was not being moved around as quickly as it should have been and this made life a whole lot easier for the visitors.
The quicker the ball moves around, the more the defenders will follow it and be dragged out of position, meaning holes in the defence begin to appear.
But if this is done at a moderate speed, then there’s no desperation from the defender’s point of view and they can just shuffle across with ease and there is less space to then exploit. The low-block might be seen as a ‘boring’ way to play football and it is often criticised, but it’s so effective, especially against a team like Chelsea, who at the moment, do not look like a team with an attacking plan.
There are so many things to fix at Chelsea at the moment, but their inability to break down some of the poorest teams in the Premier League has to be right up there.