Chelsea put in a lacklustre, sloppy display at the London stadium this afternoon and fell to a 1-0 defeat as an early Marko Arnautovic goal proved decisive.
The Blues were poor all over the park this afternoon and deservedly lost given that not a single player stood out as having a good game. Just as was the case against Newcastle last week, Chelsea found themselves a goal down early on in a lunchtime kick-off, only today Antonio Conte’s side could not find a way to turn their fortunes around.
Chelsea’s failure to win today is especially disappointing due to the Manchester derby taking place tomorrow. Rather than being the weekend that everyone expected to be Chelsea’s chance to close the gap between themselves and Manchester United, Manchester City or both, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola now do battle tomorrow knowing that the gap between themselves and the rest of the Premier League will not be tarnished whatever the result.
— Breathe Chelsea (@BreatheChels) December 9, 2017
This was a game that Chelsea never really looked up for. The Champions were asleep for the opening minutes – costing them the all-important goal – and despite West Ham then retreating deep into their own half for much of the game the lack of chances created by the Blues was alarming. Chelsea may not have been clinical in front of goal against Atletico in midweek but they did at least create numerous opportunities, meaning today’s performance was a significant step backwards.
Arnautovic’s display was perhaps the strongest of any player this afternoon, though the Austrian will no doubt have been pleasantly surprised by how easily he was able to fight through Chelsea’s back three. His goal came through a one-two where he spun off Andreas Christensen too easily, and the Dane was unable to stick with Arnautovic as he received the return pass and slid the ball past Courtois.
The response Chelsea showed throughout the remaining 84 minutes of the game was so tame that only two late chances stand out as clear opportunities created to salvage even a point from this important fixture. Worse still, they were both missed. Alvaro Morata’s was the clearest, as the Spaniard received a through ball inside the West Ham penalty area only to fire wide of Adrian’s goal. Morata’s goal record has been good since arriving in London but the lack of composure he showed against Atletico and with this chance sum up his recent decline from a very strong start to the season.
Eden Hazard was the other player who had an opportunity to fire at the West Ham goal late on but the Belgian’s left-footed effort was also overly powerful and off target. In contrast, Hazard is perhaps the only player who can be forgiven for an off-day today such has been his incredible recent form. Of course, Chelsea supporters will be disappointed with the Belgian’s quiet showing this afternoon but far more of a worry is the lack of anyone else stepping up to grab a hold of the game in Hazard’s absence.
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) December 9, 2017
The result leaves Chelsea in need of an immediate return to winning ways at Huddersfield in midweek, and in even greater need of a draw in the Manchester derby tomorrow. With zero points today the Blues remain three points behind Manchester United and 11 behind City, meaning a Guardiola victory tomorrow would almost certainly end Chelsea’s already thin-looking title hopes.