Chelsea managed a resounding 4-0 win over West Brom at The Hawthorns this afternoon, intensifying the already large speculation that Tony Pulis will be sacked from his position with the Baggies.
In what makes a pleasant change for Chelsea in comparison to recent years, it is the Blues who have put a West Brom manager on the brink of losing his job as opposed to The Hawthorns again acting as a graveyard for Chelsea managers. Roberto Di Matteo and Andre Villas-Boas may have each managed their last games in the West Midlands, but Antonio Conte’s record at West Brom’s home ground could hardly be more enjoyable. Chelsea won the league at The Hawthorns last season, and hammered the Baggies with ease this afternoon.
Though a slightly tentative start from the visitors had supporters slightly concerned that Chelsea’s return from the international break would be a slow one, once Alvaro Morata broke the deadlock it never looked likely that points would be dropped. The ease with which Chelsea were able to extend their lead was reflective of the poor period West Brom are currently going through – the Blues visited at a very good time – but Antonio Conte will have been delighted to see his players take full advantage and put the game to bed so quickly.
Morata’s opening goal which came as a rebound after Ben Foster saved Eden Hazard’s shot was quickly followed by a goal for the Belgian himself as Morata turned provider. Undoubtedly the goal of the day, the Spaniard’s assist was a thing of beauty. A ball was played into Morata’s feet at pace and with one touch the striker clipped the ball behind him with his heel. The pace of the initial pass was maintained as the ball found its way into the path of Eden Hazard who neatly rounded Foster before side-footing into the net.
— Breathe Chelsea (@BreatheChels) November 18, 2017
Hazard’s display today stood out in a Chelsea team that was full of strong performers. The winger was booked early on for a revenge tackle he made on Grzegorz Krychowiak shortly after being fouled by Gareth Barry, but went onto turn that anger into a simply unstoppable performance. When playing with that extra aggression and ferocity Hazard’s game seems to go a level above even his own high standards, and it was no surprise to see the Belgian score again to seal the game with Chelsea’s fourth in the second half.
Marcos Alonso was the man to score Chelsea’s third in between those two Hazard strikes, with a goal that West Brom will have been particularly disappointed to have conceded. During the more successful periods of Tony Pulis’ time at The Hawthorns, West Brom have become well known for their solidity in defence and their quality when both defending and attacking set pieces. Cesc Fabregas’s cross from a free-kick that was finished by Alonso from a tight angle will therefore have been especially infuriating for Pulis, as he watched his team capitulate in front of a toxic home atmosphere.
For Chelsea though this was an important win that stands the Blues in good stead ahead of a tricky away trip to face Qarabag in Baku on Wednesday. The games come thick and fast for Conte’s men over the next couple of weeks, and it was therefore no surprise to see Hazard, Fabregas and Kante all substituted before the final whistle today as the manager looked to keep his star men fresh. After that European away fixture and the long time spent travelling it brings, the Champions must then face Liverpool at Anfield in what looks set to be an explosive Premier League clash.
Of course, each of those games could well prove tougher than this afternoon’s opposition but Chelsea can take real confidence from another clean sheet and the clinical form of Morata and Hazard. The return of N’Golo Kante has allowed for the Blues to play in a 3-5-2 formation for the last two games and the balance of the XI looks infinitely better for it. The big question hovering over Chelsea and Conte now then, is whether or not the team and Kante specifically can maintain solid performances with just a few days rest between each game in this upcoming busy period.