Blues move 6 points clear of Arsenal; 1 point off Tottenham in third-place

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Chelsea strengthened their bid for a top-four finish in the Premier League after Willian’s second-half strike handed the Blues a 2-1 win over Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge.

Following Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat to West Ham earlier in the day, Maurizio Sarri’s side had the opportunity to build a six-point lead over their London rivals in fifth and got off to the perfect start as Pedro – with his seventh goal of the season – gave the Blues an eighth-minute lead when he collected David Luiz’s brilliant ball over the top, took a touch, then shot past Martin Dubravka.

However, Chelsea’s mentality came into question once again as Newcastle were able to respond before half-time through Ciaran’s Clark powerful header into the far corner, evading both Antonio Rudiger and Luiz in the process.

With boos being heard around the ground at the interval, Chelsea needed to come out strong in the second half and thankfully this was the case as the much-maligned Willian reminded the fans what he is capable of with a superb finish in the 57th minute after being played in by Eden Hazard, securing the much wanted three points.

Sarri’s side greatly improved in the second half when Hazard was able to have a more prominent role, running himself into the ground before being replaced by Olivier Giroud late on. That said, there are still some concerns over the ‘False 9’ lineup Chelsea currently use, which shows the striker woes the club are suffering from as they continue their search for a prolific goalscorer.

Callum Hudson-Odoi, the continued subject of interest from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, came on for another decent cameo display. The home fans loudly chanted “we want you to stay” in the direction of the talented young English winger, hoping for him to commit to a long-term future to the club and sign a new contract, with his current one having 18 months left.

The result leaves Maurizio Sarri’s side fourth, six points clear of Arsenal, who they face at Emirates Stadium in their next game on 19 January.

Match Statistics

Possession (%)  – Chelsea 66%, Newcastle 34%
Shots – Chelsea 10, Newcastle 9
Shots on Target – Chelsea 6, Newcastle 2
Corners – Chelsea 8, Newcastle 5
Fouls – Chelsea 6, Newcastle 13
Offsides – Chelsea 5, Newcastle 1
Yellow/Red Cards – Chelsea 1/0, Newcastle 1/0

(Bonus Stat) With his assist for Willian’s winner, Eden Hazard is one of only two players in the top 5 leagues in Europe to have both scored and assisted 10 or more goals this season – the other is Lionel Messi (16 goals and 10 assists). Prolific.

Post-Match Thoughts
– Decent start (1st half), improved performance (2nd half).
– Huge 3 points – big gap to Arsenal/Man Utd now.
– Usual problems still around – no goalscoring striker, a lack of mentality to kick on and finish off games and complacency due to no competition in certain positions is leading to complacency. All need to be rectified as soon as possible.
– Kanté is an absolute machine.
– Hazard worked himself into the ground.

Chelsea Player/Manager Ratings

Starting XI
Kepa (6) – Quiet afternoon, nothing wrong as per usual from the Spaniard.
Azpilicueta (7) – Typical hard-working, consistent performance from our captain. Definitely back to his usual form after a stuttering start earlier in the season.
Rudiger (7) – Solid display from the centre-back. When he plays well the defence tend to do so overall too. Vital to the squad.
David Luiz – (7) The Brazilian with another ‘David Luiz’ match – great assist for Pedro’s goal, fell asleep for Newcastle’s equaliser. Can’t knock his determination though.
Alonso (5) – Has been completely off the boil all season long and this performance is another example of that form.
Kanté – (8) MOTM performance. Done all the hard work that was overlooked today but was very much needed for the team to get a winning result. An absolute machine.
Jorginho (6) – Not his best performance but not completely his fault when others around him don’t help him. Booked.
Kovačić (6) – Another hard-working display from the Croatian, just wishing for more from him in an attacking sense.
Willian – (8) His best performance of the season, easily. Will silence a few critics tonight.
Hazard – (7) Worked himself into the ground and vitally contributed to the team once again, providing the assist for Willian’s winner. Still needs help in the attacking third though in my opinion for the team to be more potent and dangerous.
Pedro – (7) A good goal and a good match – very much what you usually get from him.

Barkley (63′ for Loftus-Cheek) – 6, Nothing bad but also nothing good. Good form from earlier in the season has disappeared.
Hudson-Odoi (81′ for Pedro) – 6, Decent 10 minutes from the youngster.
Giroud (87′ – for Hazard) – 5, had nothing to do.

Maurizio Sarri (7) – Picked his (current) strongest starting line-up that is available and once again was able to get the maximum points. Clearly needs help from the board in terms of squad investment as he’s almost working miracles right now with what he has at his disposal.

Written by Terry Sazio.

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