Chelsea bounced back to winning ways with a 1-0 win over London rivals Fulham after a disappointing loss against Middlesbrough last Tuesday. They secured their fourth consecutive victory at Stamford Bridge, a feat last accomplished in 2020. Currently, the club holds the eighth position in the table.
Here are three insights gained from the match.
1. The majority of the squad was ready to reverse the situation.
The entire team experienced a disappointing day in the EFL Cup semi-final first-leg loss to Middlesbrough, with none of the players performing well. This setback motivated them to rectify their performance in the Premier League. Almost all players displayed a sharp improvement, especially Enzo Fernandez and Mosies Caicedo in the midfield, who appeared particularly charged. Armando Broja effectively pressed up top, while Cole Palmer emerged as the standout player for the hosts. The 21-year-old displayed composure and calmness while converting the penalty that secured Chelsea's victory in the fixture.
Raheem Sterling, once again, proved the least effective player on the field. Despite his effective pressing, Conor Gallagher once again played the culprit in slowing down Chelsea's momentum numerous times, much to the annoyance of the home fans.
2. The team lacked the understanding of how to close out the game.
The team maintained composure for most of the match. But in the final minutes, they completely lost their calm. Their approach seemed as if they had no idea how to close out the game. Even the TV commentators expressed bewilderment at the actions of Chelsea players.
Instead of opting for straightforward clearances, they attempted too many short passes. When a long ball was the viable option, they lost possession. In the very late stages, they conceded cheap free kicks, risking the potential elimination of their lead. During a phase when Noni Madueke could have easily retained possession or passed to his open teammates on the right, he lost the ball to a Fulham player nearby, inviting additional pressure.
3. Multiple times, Mauricio Pochettino was again at fault.
Once again, Mykhailo Mudryk found himself on the bench, overlooked in favor of Sterling, who had performed poorly in consecutive matches against Championship sides. There seemed to be no logical reason to reward the former Manchester City player with another start. Fans might assume it was due to his poor performance he was taken off. However, Pochettino might have taken him off to potentially reward his subpar showing with another start in the next match.
Chelsea welcomed back vice-captain Ben Chilwell for the first time since September, as he entered the game in the second half. Carney Chukwuemeka also returned to the squad after injury struggles that had sidelined him since August. Fans anticipated the return of a genuine left-back playing in that position with Chilwell's arrival. However, frustratingly, Coach Pochettino deployed him as a winger, leaving Colwill at left-back. It seems this coach is insistent on playing players out of their natural positions, a tendency that has elicited criticism, especially considering the subsequent complaints about lacking players in specific positions.