West Ham deservedly beat Chelsea

by - December 11, 2017

Chelsea travelled to West Ham in the Saturday lunchtime kick off this weekend. It was a match up that saw next to bottom of the Premier League host the third placed club. The Hammers were winless in their last 8 league matches, whilst The Blues were unbeaten in their last 7. Surely this would all point towards victory for the visitors, and a relatively comfortable win at that.

Marko Arnautovic scored his first West Ham United goal 

However, the footballing gods rarely allow for such obvious outcomes - if they did, my bookmaker would not be such a wealthy man! It is what gives the unfancied underdog hope every time and keeps us all glued to such a fascinating sport.

Antonio Conte only really had a few decisions to make for his starting line up. David Luiz was still unavailable due to his knee injury and Danny Drinkwater was out due to illness. With that in mind, the manager kept with the more solid looking 3-5-2 formation for this London derby and opted for Cahill over Rudiger in defence, Bakayoko to play alongside Kante and Fabregas in midfield, and retained Zappacosta on the right flank instead of the returning Moses.

After Bakayoko’s recent performances being well below expected levels and the absence of Drinkwater and Luiz, this could have been an opportunity to start with the promising young talents of Ethan Ampadu in midfield. Admittedly Bakayoko is usually deployed further forward than the youngster within a midfield 3 but again he did little in his support of Hazard and Morata.

The formation itself can lead to a lack of targets up front when attacking and at times Chelsea were very guilty of this. West Ham were very organised and tight in defence. A narrow back 3 with definite full backs either side and 2 very defensively minded holding midfield players in front of them allowed little space in and around their own penalty box. Conte changed to a 3-4-3 at half time but we did not see enough of high numbers pressurising West Ham’s back line in the second half.

However, the gravest error for the visitors was the lack of energy, enthusiasm or even belief when attacking. Minimal movement from players not in possession gave the defenders the easiest marking and covering of jobs to do, whilst the player with the ball, either out wide or centrally had no targets to aim at.

After taking the early lead, the West Ham players would have been concerned about falling to a similar eventual outcome as last week’s match when they finally succumbed to a late winner against Manchester City. The main difference was that the City players constantly moved giving options to the player in possession. They kept the  ball moving quickly and, despite West Ham’s defence’s best efforts, they were finally prised apart.

Against a Chelsea attack who looked lethargic and struggled for ideas, they’re job was far easier. So much so that they not only didn’t lose the match, but they held firm to win all 3 points.

Yes Chelsea finished with 69% possession and 19 attempts at goal but for the defending champions playing against a team who hadn’t won a league match since September, a total of just 2 attempts on target, and both of those coming in the first half, was a clear indication of a lack of penetration. Yes Morata has scored 9 goals in 15 appearances for The Blues and Hazard has been in unbelievably breathtaking form recently, but if both of them are not quite taking the game by the scruff of the neck, then other teammates need to step up. There is talk of some of the players, especially Morata, suffering from the same illness that sidelined Drinkwater, but there must have been 11 fit players available who could have shown more effort to pull the stubborn defence apart.

In the end, it seemed to be almost fully left to the irrepressible Kante to try to galvanise the Chelsea team but his best efforts could not prevent a fourth Premier League defeat for Antonio Conte’s side. A hard fought, well organised rearguard battle saw The Hammers finally register their first victory for their new manager. Meanwhile an angry Conte was left to announce to the media that his side were definitely out of the title race this year. And after defeats to 2 of the bottom 3, it’s hard to not argue with him. It is a lack of consistency that champions rarely possess.

Written by Jon Ellis, Chelsea FC home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on twitter: @ClitheroeBlue

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