Chelsea slumped to a miserable 0-2 loss to Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening.
The Blues were in complete control of a tough game in prospect, yet a silly defensive error and a unbelievable long-range strike afforded the visitors a lead they protected with their lives – with the home side conspiring to spurn opportunity after opportunity and in doing so drop into the bottom half of the Premier League.
A bright enough start was swiftly undone when Marc Cucurella inexplicably drifted in field and looped a header over the Chelsea backline, leaving Ollie Watkins with the goal effectively at his mercy in the 18th minute. The Pensioners kept knocking on the door for a reply and thought they had it through a wonderful Ben Chilwell header on the cusp of the break, only for the referee to adjudge there to have been a foul in challenging for the ball.
Graham Potter will have been scratching his head searching for the answers at the interval, with his men bossing possession and getting away a multitude of shots to the Villain’s solitary one on target. It was apparent that they would have to be quick out of the blocks in the second period or else face further frustration at the hands of Unai Emery’s tightly-knit claret and blue unit.
But a familiar malaise descended and there was almost a cosmic inevitability to John McGinn’s 55th minute hit from around 30 yards out, doubling the lead. The damning indictment thereafter is that no real clear cut chance was to follow, with the Kings of the King’s Road fresh out of ideas.
It’s another new – and literal – low for Graham Potter’s Chelsea and it may well get worse with the visit of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on Tuesday. In the meantime, here is how Absolute Chelsea rated the players’ poor performances against Aston Villa…
Kepa Arrizabalaga – 4/10
Marooned in no man’s land for the two real tasks at hand. The blame doesn’t really lie with the Spaniard in the final analysis for the first goal, but at least don’t make the striker’s mind up for him. The second, however, you can argue with until the cow’s come home. A strike from distance flying past Chelsea’s one time record transfer signing is nothing new.
Reece James – 6/10
With the strongest tools in his arsenal effectively nullified by being pigeonholed into the back three through his manager’s tactical decisions, Chelsea’s talisman was unable to find the killer delivery – although it wasn’t for the want of trying, with a few good crosses going wanting. Not a bad ball to almost gift Villa a third, either.
Kalidou Koulibaly – 4/10
Sold short by colleague Cucurella for the visitors’ goal, although one does wonder what semblance of communication there was between the pair. Even beyond that he never seemed truly assured or comfortable with the livewire Watkins.
Marc Cucurella – 3/10 (80)
Unbelievable vision to put the ball on a plate for Watkins to lift home the opener. The sort of brainless, headless chicken period of play that has characterised the hapless Spaniard’s spell at Stamford Bridge thus far, doing himself no favours to endear himself to the fans. It’s fair to say the chunky investment to bring the former Brighton man to the club is looking like a grave mistake on this, and the early, evidence.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 5/10 (57)
Relatively neat and impactful with his drives forward on the right flank, although the final ball is hardly his forte and his withdrawal was probably the right call at that stage of the game – if not a little late.
Mateo Kovacic – 6/10 (80)
Not the easiest day at the office in an engine room that was deliberately crowded by the West Midlands outfit. Handled it fine enough, showing his battling qualities and a number of nice threaded balls that those in a royal blue shirt failed to capitalise upon. Really ought to be discouraged from attempts at goal, though – or at least encouraged to find his shooting boots.
Enzo Fernandez – 7/10
One of the lone shining lights in a pretty pitiful season for the Blues was again a glimmer of competence through the gloom. Tenacious as ever and so utterly composed in possession, although there was to be no magic on the evening.
Ben Chilwell – 7/10
The most dynamic attacking outlet for the hosts, and while that hasn’t been at all uncommon over the past couple of years it is testament to the sheer lack of dynamism otherwise. Unlucky to see one ping off the post and he was a constant thorn in the Villain’s left hand side with his swashbuckling runs.
Mykhailo Mudryk – 4/10 (57)
Bit of a howler early on to fire straight at the goalkeeper when it could have been presented to peers for a tap-in, and you could effectively say the same for a similar occasion fifteen minutes before half-time. Some serious time needed in front of the goalmouth at the training ground for the Ukrainian, who is hardly setting the world alight with his profligacy and his large spells on the fringes of the action.
Joao Felix – 6/10
The Portuguese says he has been starstruck during his Chelsea spell but he’ll have been more dumbstruck and dumbfounded today. Nothing seemed to fall right for him or his teammates. Some tidy ideas and quality here and there, but a true sight of goal never quite materialised.
Kai Havertz – 5/10
Cut a pretty forlorn and isolated figure at the spearhead of the attack. Worked hard but too often crowded out with limited support.
N’Golo Kante – 6/10 (57)
The re-emergence of the Frenchman after such a long spell on the sidelines was by far and away the highlight of an atrocious afternoon down the football for the Stamford Bridge faithful. Some early signs of his positional quality and terrier-like tackling are cause for optimism amid the enduring disappointment around the club at current.
Noni Madueke – 5/10 (57)
Brought something different to proceedings with his quick feet, but largely ineffectual.
Conor Gallagher – N/A (80)
Christian Pulisic – N/A (80)
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