Chelsea wound up with the points, 58% of possession and seventeen shots to Southampton’s ten. Nevertheless it was a worrying performance for the West London club; the win was really down to a lack of concentration and quality from the home side.

The visitors showed a marked lack of intent, courage and desire until Giroud and Pedro shocked them to life. Morata, Fabregas, Alonso and even Hazard were especially poor in the first half. Up until Giroud’s goal, Hazard’s main highlight was getting booked for tossing the ball at a Saints player’s face.

Perhaps these were symptoms of the uncertainty (or certainty) around Antonio Conte’s future? Nevertheless a win is a win. Next up for Chelsea, an away game Thursday v Burnley, before playing Southampton again on Sunday in the FA Cup semi-finals. […]

Sunday 18th March, King Power Stadium – Chelsea made a quick return to action against Leicester City in the FA Cup quarter-finals. Just four days had passed since their demoralizing 3 – 0 loss to Barcelona in the Champions League.

Chelsea had reached the FA Cup quarter-finals after home wins against two Premier League sides: Hull City (4 – 0) and Newcastle United (3 – 0). Before that, they’d struggled mightily to overcome Norwich City on penalties after a slightly vindictive refereeing performance in the third round replay.

Claude Puel’s side had dealt quietly and competently with Sheffield United (1 – 0), Peterborough United (5 – 1) and Fleetwood Town (2 – 0 in the replay after a goalless game at Highbury). Nigerian international Kelechi Iheanacho was City’s hero in this competition, having scored four goals against Fleetwood and Peterborough.

Antonio Conte made four changes to the team that started at Camp Nou: Willy Caballero came in for Thibaut Courtois, after the Belgian’s entertaining double-nutmeg performance against the Catalan side. Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata replaced Cesc Fabregas and Olivier Giroud in midfield and attack. […]

The media narrative in the run up to this game was a lot Mourinho versus Conte. Or Lukaku versus Morata, Sanchez versus Hazard, de Gea versus Courtois, but the managers showed during the game that they’d put their feuding behind them now.

At the end, the game wasn’t decided so much by individual battles, but by the team that was most committed, that wanted it more. The visitors were brutally punished for errors of concentration in defence, especially as both halves wore on. United delivered some pretty tough lessons to a Chelsea team in transition, but lessons they will have to learn nevertheless. […]

The weekend kicked off with an FA Cup fifth round tie: Chelsea vs Hull City, Premier League top four contenders v Championship strugglers.

Hull were twenty-first of the twenty-four teams in the Sky Bet Championship as at the start of play, a full thirty-seven places below Chelsea, who were fourth in the EPL.

However the visitors were in slightly better form than their hosts, albeit against weaker opposition. They’d won two and drawn one of their last five games in all competitions, including a 2 – 1 win over Nottingham Forest in the previous round of the FA Cup.

Chelsea were going through a pretty difficult patch, at least for a club their size. They’d lost to Arsenal, Bournemouth and Watford in their last five games. They did beat Newcastle United 3 – 0 in the FA Cup, and West Brom by the same scoreline in the league, but it was still a bad run of results for them. […]

Chelsea were back home in West London for their FA Cup fourth round tie vs Newcastle United.

Chelsea had just managed to scrape past Norwich City on penalties in the previous round, while Newcastle beat Luton Town 3 – 1, Ayose Perez (two goals) and Jonjo Shelvey (one goal) with three first half goals to quickly put the game to bed.

Both teams were coming off recent defeats though – Antonio Conte endured yet another difficult game against Arsenal in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semis midweek.
Newcastle had fallen victim to a Sergio Aguero hat trick at the Etihad, in the previous weekend’s Premier League game. Both Conte and Rafa Benitez would be looking for a positive reaction from their teams today. […]

Final game in this season’s Chelsea-Arsenal er… Quintology? Pentalogy? Quintuple? Pentad? Series of five distasteful encounters? Anyway it was going to be over after tonight’s Carabao Cup semi-final, one way or another.

Arsenal and Chelsea had played out four consecutive draws so far, although the Gunners did eventually get the win on penalties in the first meeting, in the Community Shield. In their most recent game, Chelsea hadn’t done enough with home advantage and an injury-free squad – the Carabao Cup first leg had ended up goalless.

Tonight, they had to win away from home with both their top scorer and their most creative midfielder out injured. Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) were both unavailable. Thibaut Courtois was still recovering from an ankle problem, so Willy Caballero started in his place.

Andreas Christensen returned from a head injury, but despite a promising performance from Michy Batshuayi at Brighton during the weekend, Antonio Conte opted to play Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro as the three attackers at the Emirates. […]

Chelsea were in turmoil, apparently. The players were tired, strikers misfiring, technical directors quitting. Rumours were swirling that another popular title-winning manager would leave soon. Andy Carroll was threatening to sign on a permanent transfer.

And three consecutive goalless draws for the first time in club history. It wasn’t a bad run of results really; Chelsea had stayed in two cup competitions, and gained a point under difficult circumstances in the league. But still, in turmoil by all accounts.

Well… these things happen, and successful clubs find solutions. And Chelsea’s FA Cup replay vs Norwich City was an opportunity to start implementing those solutions.

Norwich City were 13th in the EFL Championship. They’d only played one game since their draw with Chelsea: they beat Bristol City away 1 – 0, which was a pretty decent result considering Bristol were thirteen points ahead of them before their game. […]

The great thing about rotation, when it’s done properly, it gives players with a point to prove their long-awaited chance… to prove their point. All five goals were scored by Chelsea players that have spent more time on the bench this season than on the pitch – and they showed today they’re more than just backups.

And maybe it was the quality of the opposition, but Chelsea also showed vastly improved finishing compared with their previous games. They had a 42% conversion rate today versus 13% against Southampton, 0% v Everton and 25% v Brighton & Hove Albion. It helped to avoid shooting straight at the keeper maybe.

The most important stat though: Manchester United drew with Southampton after Romelu Lukaku was stretchered off injured, so Chelsea ended 2017 second in the league! Yeah it’s just halfway through and City are too far ahead, but it’s not bad for a transitional season. At least so far. Well done to Antonio Conte, the players and the board.

And Happy New Year everyone! […]

Back to West London now, after two road trips to West Ham and Huddersfield. Chelsea’s opponents today: Southampton FC, fresh off a 4 – 1 home defeat to Leicester City. The game before though, Southampton managed a creditable 1 – 1 draw v Arsenal, who were in seventh place. They would not be pushovers today, by any means.

Chelsea (and Antonio Conte) were in game two of a “small ball” experiment. Even though Alvaro Morata was unavailable v Huddersfield, Michy Batshuayi was left on the bench. Today, both Michy and Alvaro were ready to play, but Conte started the same small, mobile attacking three as the previous game: Willian on the left, Pedro on the right, Eden Hazard in the center.

Mauricio Pellegrino rotated in Wesley Hoedt and Manolo Gabbiadini for Virgil van Dijk and Charlie Austin. Gary Cahill replaced Antonio Rudiger, who’d played well against Huddersfield, but maybe could have done more to prevent their late goal. N’golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko were the two midfielders in Chelsea’s 3-4-3 today, so Cesc Fabregas was on the bench second game in a row. […]

Freezing weather, pouring rain, unbelievably enthusiastic home crowd, good times! It was a quick return to action in the Premier League. Chelsea played Huddersfield Town in their second away game in four days.

Chelsea had lost their last game against West Ham United. They started too slowly, the opposition scored and for the first time in the league since October, they couldn’t find their way back into the game. West Ham had ended an unbeaten run in which Chelsea had banked 19 of 21 available points.

Fortunately for Chelsea though, the teams around them weren’t able to take advantage. Manchester United lost their derby, Liverpool drew theirs, and Arsenal were held by Southampton.

Despite recent losses to Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City, Huddersfield were enjoying a pretty good start to their Premier League season. The two-nil win v Brighton in their last game had lifted them to twelfth place in the league, level on points with Southampton. […]