Photo Source: Chelsea FC Online
The cup competition’s don’t appear to be a problem for Chelsea, it’s in the league where the issues lie. Off the back of an embarrassing humiliation at the hands of Bournemouth, Maurizio Sarri’s side take on Huddersfield Town at Stamford Bridge in a traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off.
After another dressing room dressing down, we once again await i) Sarri’s team selection on Saturday ii) The player’s attitude and reaction. Regarding the blame game, Chelsea fans fall into two camps. It’s the manager’s fault or it’s the player’s fault. In reality, it’s probably a bit of both. Sarri says the players have yet to pick up even the basics of his style of play. Watching on Wednesday that was evidently clear.
The way Chelsea capitulated in the second half was not pretty and once again Sarri was left scratching his head along with many who follow the Blues. Of course, there is an argument that the players are once again not performing for their manager as they did in both Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte’s final seasons in charge. The jury’s still out on that. It may just be a case of the players not being good enough.
Those backing the players lay the blame at Sarri’s door because he makes like for like substitutions is too reliant on Jorginho and appears to lack the ability to manage a game in real-time. In the Bournemouth game that was also evident. Gonzalo Higuain was replaced by Olivier Giroud, subsequently, the Italian said he was not yet fit. Surely then, he should have bought him off earlier than he actually did. The other changes Willian for Pedro and Loftus-Cheek for Kovacic were like for like. It was all too predictable.
Better to look forward now though, we must hope that some common ground can be found between the manager and players and together they can get the results the fans deserve. Once again Sarri will attempt to shuffle his pack of 14 players into a team capable of understanding his system and being able to initiate it.
Goalkeeper – It’s a lonely spot between the sticks when all is going wrong in front of you and there is little you can do to stop it. But, Kepa Arrizabalaga was by no means Chelsea’s worst player against Bournemouth despite the four goals conceded. Not for the first time this season, Chelsea’s problems lie further forward.
Defence – All sorts of problems here. Chelsea looked vulnerable every time Eddie Howe’s side counter-attacked and were left chasing shadows. Sarri’s options are limited though. Cesar Azpilicueta keeps his place as captain, but even he had a poor game last time out. Sarri will likely rotate one of the centre-backs for Andreas Christensen. Your guess is probably better than mine but I’m keeping David Luiz and resting Antonio Rudiger. The call for Emerson to play ahead of Marcos Alonso was realised on Wednesday and the Brazilian born Italian failed to live up to social media hype.
Midfield – It’s a given that Jorginho will play. Personally, I’d leave him out and play Mateo Kovacic there, but I don’t see Sarri doing so. N’golo Kante is probably one of the few players in this current squad genuinely capable of playing two games in a week so will be raring to go again on Saturday. Ruben Loftus-Cheek made his come-back from his recent back injury as a second-half substitute against Bournemouth and is Chelsea’s best option going forward. What I don’t know though is, does he understand how Sarri is trying to play? If he doesn’t Kovacic will once again line-up as the third midfielder.
Attack – If media reports are to be believed Eden Hazard was singled out by Maurizio Sarri as one of the players not able to play his system. But he’s a game changer on his day. It’s clear his time in SW6 could be running out and that may be for the best. If Chelsea invest the money they recoup from selling him wisely on the players that Sarri needs to get his system working then so be it. Whilst the rest of the team take the safe option with their passing, the only player willing to risk misplacing a pass is Willian. His commitment to Chelsea FC has always been unwavering yet he receives so much unwarranted abuse. He can create and score and starts. Sarri’s big question revolves around Gonzalo Higuain’s fitness. It may be he chooses to play the Argentinian into match fitness. His debut against Sheffield Wednesday was disappointing, against Bournemouth he again failed to deliver. But it’s early days. He’s a proven goalscorer but he has to start scoring soon or else he risks the curse of the number 9 shirt.
Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Christensen, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Loftus-Cheek, Hazard, Willian, Higuain
Follow Kevin on Twitter @techlec2000