Aston Villa condemned Chelsea to their first defeat in four, beating the Blues 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea started brightly, and nearly took an early lead through Mykhailo Mudryk. Aston Villa tried to play out from the back, but were caught napping by Mudryk, who could only hit his close-range effort against the on rushing Emiliano Martinez, who spread himself well.
Villa came back strongly and had some good efforts of their own, courtesy of Ollie Watkins dragged effort and John McGinn, who slammed his shot against Kepa Arrizabalaga’s crossbar.
However, Aston Villa soon found themselves in front thanks to a lovely dink from Watkins. Marc Cucurella and Kalidou Koulibaly failed to deal with a long ball, in what was some farcical defending from the Blues, setting Watkins clean through on goal, where he kept his cool, chipping a stranded Kepa to give his side a deserved lead.
Chelsea went in search of a quick equaliser, and tested the gloves of Martinez through Kai Havertz and Joao Felix, whilst Enzo Fernandez headed an effort narrowly wide .
Mudryk then squandered another effort, hitting a tame shot at Martinez after being played through on goal, before Ben Chilwell hit the post from a tight angle.
Chilwell thought he had equalised for his side on the stroke of half time, only for his headed effort to be ruled out for a soft push on Ashley Young, to end a frustrating half for the Blues.
Chelsea started the second half well, with Chilwell testing Villa’s defensive resolve again, hitting two efforts wide. However, it was Aston Villa who struck the next goal, through their captain McGinn. An Aston Villa corner was cleared to the edge of the box, where McGinn swept home a thunderous effort, leaving Kepa with no chance, doubling the Villains lead against the run of play.
Chelsea continued to pepper the Aston Villa goal after McGinn’s strike, with the returning N’golo Kante sending his teams best chance wide, with Martinez’s goal gaping. Despite the Blues best attempts to muster a response, they were unable to do so, condemning them to defeat against Aston Villa.
Here are five things Absolute Chelsea learned from Saturday’s loss in the capital.
1) Stop start season continues
After building some much needed momentum before the international break, Chelsea took a step back against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge. Defeat against the Villains means the Blues now sit in the bottom of half of the Premier League table, with any hope of European football for next season slowly slipping away. Chelsea’s lack of points has come from an inability to build any form of consistency, with their last decent run of form coming last October. Late draws against Spurs and Man Utd, sacking Thomas Tuchel, constant injury problems and more have all been symbols of Chelsea’s lacklustre campaign, with dropped points against Everton, followed by defeat to Aston Villa another blip to add to the list. The Blues patchy form may not last, but it has come to symbolise a frustrating season for Chelsea that has struggled to get going from the start.
2) Chelsea Struggle at the back
With Thiago Silva and Wesley Fofana side-lined, Chelsea were unable to field their first choice defence, and it showed. Reece James and Marc Cucurella were chosen as Koulibaly’s centre-back partners, at the expense of more natural centre backs Benoit Badiashile and Trevoh Chalobah, and the decision backfired. Cucurella and Koulibaly were at fault for Watkins opener, failing to communicate before Cucurella inexplicably headed the ball to Watkins for a free run at goal. But there were other concerning defensive moments too, as Aston Villa managed to get in behind the Blues defensive multiple times throughout the match, with Chelsea looking particularly vulnerable on the counter attack. Despite Chelsea’s obvious deficiencies in front of goal, if Aston Villa were more clinical themselves they could have scored a hatful too. One of the key foundations of Chelsea’s recent resurgence has been defensive stability, and they will need to find it again soon if they hope to build any momentum on the seasons run in.
3) Profligacy in front of goal continues
Between Watkins and McGinn’s goals, Chelsea had fifteen attempts at goal, compared to zero from Aston Villa. This statistic paints a grim picture of the Blues struggles in front of goal on Saturday evening, as old habits resurfaced for Graham Potter’s team. Mudryk missed the two best chances, whilst Felix, Chilwell and Havertz also failed to make good on multiple openings afforded to them. Graham Potter has faced a lot of criticism from fans, however he has helped develop a system which has fashioned plenty of chances for his team in recent weeks. Chelsea are finally playing some good, creative football, but they most become more efficient in front of goal, otherwise they will continue to be punished.
4) Mudryk inexperience shows
Graham Potter mentioned in his pre-match conference that Mykhailo Mudryk essentially came to the club in the middle of his pre-season, and this rustiness was on display at Stamford Bridge. Mudryk had two chances to score after getting behind Aston Villa’s defence, however his poor efforts lacked composure and failed to test Martinez. Mudryk clearly has bags of talent, and showed this by getting himself into promising positions and getting involved in the Blues positive build-up play, however he will have to learn that such profligacy in front of goal will be punished in the Premier League. A learning curve for the young Ukrainian, who still has plenty of time to display his promising talents in the future.
5) N’golo Kante returns
Despite the negative atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, one thing that may have put a smile on the face of Chelsea supporters is the long awaited return of N’golo Kante. Kante has not featured for the Blues since September and has been sorely missed as his side’s season has imploded. Kante showed his rustiness by missing a good opportunity soon after coming on, however it was a refreshing site to see him popping up in various areas of the pitch, trying to impact the game. Although it will likely take some time for Kante to build himself up to full form and fitness, it is a huge plus for Graham Potter to add the fantastic Frenchman to his ranks for the run-in.