Aston Villa edged past Chelsea in a 1-0 win away at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
A second half strike from Ollie Watkins was enough for Aston Villa to see off Chelsea at Stamford Bridge after Malo Gusto saw red for the Blues earlier in the half to condemn them to their third defeat in the Premier League.
Chelsea started brightly at home, having had a full week to prepare for the match unlike their opponents, who played a Europa Conference League fixture in Poland on Thursday evening.
Aston Villa created the first real chance of the game, with Lucas Digne looping volley from the edge of the box forcing a sprawling save from Robert Sanchez in the Chelsea goal.
Chelsea created their first opportunity through Mykhailo Mudryk, who spotted Nicolas Jackson with a fantastic ball through, befroe Emiliano Martinez did well to divert the strikers poked effort around the post.
Enzo Fernandez spurned another good opening for the Blues, side footing an effort wide of the post after Malo Gusto cut the ball back to the Argentine in the box.
Sanchez was forced into making another superb stop before the break, denying Nicolo Zaniolo’s thunderous volley from close range.
Chelsea started brightly after the break with Raheem Sterling and Jackson going close for the blues.
However the Blues were reduced to 10 men in the 58th minute after Gusto had his yellow card upgraded to a red after catching Lucas Digne on the ankle following a robust challenge.
Aston Villa took the lead in the 73rd minute through Watkins. Moussa Diaby played in Watkins, with Colwill doing well to block his initial effort, before the striker blasted in the rebound from a very tight angle, to send the away fans into raptures.
Chelsea nearly responded immediately, but Ben Chilwell was denied by Martinez after being played in behind by Cole Palmer.
Despite being down to ten-men, Chelsea searched for an equaliser, with Palmer going closest for the home side. However, the blues could not find an elusive goal condemning them to their third defeat of the season.
Here are five things Absolute Chelsea learned from Sunday’s loss.
1) Blues falter again
Chelsea’s struggles continued with another morale sapping defeat at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
The Blues’ points tally is struggling to have any sort of growth spurt, despite being six games into the season.
Chelsea played well against Aston Villa, but fell foul to what has been plaguing them for the whole season, a lack of goals and a lack of experience. Gusto’s red card was always going to make it an uphill battle but Chelsea looked like a team who didn’t know how to get results over the line.
Mauricio Pochettino has inherited a young squad, with growing pains inevitable, but he will need to start building points soon if Chelsea have any hopes of European football next season.
2) Squad availability dwindling
If Chelsea’s ongoing injury crisis wasn’t already causing enough selection problems for Pochettino, he now has two suspensions to consider as well.
Gusto will miss three matches following his rash challenge on Digne, while Jackson will miss the next league match against Fulham after accruing five yellow cards so far this season.
With Reece James still unavailable, Chelsea will have to find a creative solution to their right back woes, whilst the return of Armando Broja to full fitness will hopefully provide some respite to Jackson’s absence. However the increasing amount of unavailable players whether through injury or suspension is proving to be an Achilles heel for the blues, inhibiting any chance the team have of getting their campaign off the ground.
3) Mudryk flashes
Mudryk made his second league start of the season against Aston Villa, and showed in glimpses why Chelsea rate the Ukrainian winger so highly.
The 22-year-old is clearly an inexperienced player, that needs more minutes and real match experience to deliver consistently on his talent, but the talent is clearly there.
When afforded time and space to run at Matty Cash, he caused some real problems. Firstly playing a sumptuous through ball for a Jackson chance, and then skinning Cash to deliver another dangerous cross which narrowly escaped Fernandez. With a bit more luck Mudryk could have had two assists, however he was sacrificed by Pochettino, following the red card.
4) Colwill continues at left back
Despite the presence of both Marc Cucurella and Chilwell on the Chelsea bench, it was again, the more natural central defender Levi Colwill that started at left back for the Blues on Sunday afternoon.
Colwill acquitted himself well on the left flank, generally hugging the touchline less than a more conventional fullback would, which allowed the dangerous Mudryk more space to cause Aston Villa some problems.
Colwill offers solidity and quality passing at left back, yet questions will persist about why he is being shoehorned into a position which is not a natural fit for a player who clearly excels in the middle of the defence. Pochettino’s decision will also naturally lead to questions regarding his faith in the Blues more conventional left backs, and why neither are seemingly trusted to carry out more defensive duties for the Argentine yet.
5) Attacking woes persist
The story of Chelsea’s on field season so far, has unfortunately been a lack of clinical edge which has cost the team points. Again Chelsea created openings against Aston Villa, but lacked any form of composure once in the 18 yards-box.
Chilwell and Fernandez both missed great openings, whilst Sterling and Jackson lacked the ruthlessness required to finish anything that fell their way. To make matters worse, on the one occasion Chelsea did put the ball in the net, it was ruled out for offside, as was the case against Bournemouth last week.
Despite playing well, Chelsea must become more ruthless if they want to improve on their results from last season, however the return of Broja from injury will hopefully create some optimism for blues fans.
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