Wolves v Chelsea at the Molineux was an unpleasant experience for the Blues as they suffered their second successive defeat courtesy of a stoppage-time winner from Neto. Below outlines the 5 key things learnt from that disappointing 2-1 loss.
Frank Lampard will be desperately hoping that Chelsea’s winter form doesn’t follow the same trajectory as last season and also many before this. It’s become far too typical for Chelsea to fall off and also fall apart during December.
As the weather gets colder, the fixtures get harder and the games come faster, the Blues often like to play the role of Saint Nicholas at Christmas – giving out presents in the form of wins and selflessly making the rest of the season a slog.
Luckily, this season and last, Chelsea got off to a good enough start to mean that any festive slip ups aren’t the end of the world. However, this year, with so many teams in the mix at the top of the league, the situation is different.
Last season Liverpool were basically champions by the turn of the year, the title race this season isn’t as clear. With every team from 11th upwards still excused of being excited at the possibility that this strange season could be there’s to take control over.
Here’s what we learnt about the Wolves v Chelsea match following the Blues late 2-1 loss at Molineux.
1) Werner isn’t a winger
Well, we knew this already. The trip to Goodison park demonstrated as much. Chelsea have lacked natural width without wingers and with Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi injured, the Blues look far too narrow, which was again on show in the Wolves v Chelsea match.
With Ben Chilwell and Reece James now the main form of any width, Chelsea are forced to play far too high. That then creates a shortage at the back and also a one-dimensional look to their attacking play.
Timo Werner is feeling the brunt of this though. The German has looked poor when shifted out wide, especially when there isn’t natural width on the opposing flank. Werner lacks the technical skills to take a man on and run at players when there isn’t space in behind. He’s a goal scorer.
Lampard’s insistence to play a 4-3-3 has meant that Werner is continually playing on the left, Christian Pulisic’s favoured position. This has lead to Chelsea looking very unbalanced and uncoordinated in attack.
2) Havertz is struggling
We also knew this. Another of Chelsea’s star summer signings is Kai Havertz. He is another German and also another struggling player as of late which was demonstrated again in the Wolves v Chelsea clash. Havertz hasn’t had the desired impact so far during his time in London.
There are genuine reasons for this though. At the start of the season Lampard was shifting formation in an attempt to deal with more injuries to *insert shock* the wingers. This meant Havertz was used as a striker in a two-up front. He was also deployed as a primary winger. Although these are both roles he has played before, neither are his best position.
Havertz is best as a shadow striker, somewhere in between a 10 and false nine. He likes to drift to the right but isn’t suited to an out and out winger. Being moved around in a Chelsea side that hadn’t settled didn’t help Havertz.
The 21-year old was then hit extremely hard by Covid-19 and has openly spoken about the impact it had on him. Throw in that he’s a young player in a new country and you have the perfect recipe for a player struggling to adapt.
These are excuses, but for his price tag we all expect more. However Havertz is an investment for the long-term. Right now he’s a luxury player that isn’t bringing anything to the team, Lampard knows that. Part of the managers job is to help him adapt and also get results. For now, it might be a while until we see Havertz starting for Chelsea.
3) Stick or twist
This is perhaps one that is a touchy subject for Chelsea fans. Having fought strongly in favour of Lampard and giving him time until we had a fully fit side that was used to a 4-3-3, Chelsea are back in square one, sort of.
At the start of the season when Chelsea had a lack of fit wingers, they mixed and matched to get the best out of what was available. Here they are again with just Pulisic fit to play out wide naturally. So, does Lampard take a risk and go with a different system until Ziyech and Hudson-Odoi are fit? Or does he stick with his preferred 4-3-3?
After the Wolves v Chelsea game, Lampard was insistent that the result was down to the mentality of the players. He gave some stern and unforgiving words on their inability to see the game out and manage it once they were ahead.
That didn’t sound like a manager that was going to rip up the tactics book anytime soon.
He is lucky though. Chelsea last season and this season have used a three back variant already and using that system could give more natural width from the fullbacks. It would also allow Mount to play a more advanced role for the time being whilst still having the cover of three centre halves and another midfield partner with N’Golo Kante.
This could be seen as a knee-jerk reaction to a loss but now it’s been two in a row with similar, seemingly unsolvable problems with the current squad, Lampard might have to adjust.
4) Picking up form is important
No matter what Chelsea chose to do in the coming weeks, getting results is going to be huge. They have been blessed with six days rest now. This could be a huge factor in how the Blues choose to line-up against West Ham next Monday.
With rumours of fatigue amongst some fans and journalists, though this was shut down by Lampard, a week without a game doesn’t come along too often. It will allow not only valuable recovery time, but also preparation for whatever system Lampard choses to move forward with.
Whether it’s 4-3-3 ,4-2-3-1, 3-5-2 or anything in between, Chelsea need to get going again. They were let off in the defeat against Everton as no other top six side won. They might not get as lucky after a second loss.
With increasingly hard fixtures coming up, it’s vital that Chelsea remain in the mix when they come out of the festive season. As the table starts to take more shape*, being around the challengers post-Christmas will leave any team still there believing in their chances.
*as normal as can be this year, with no side wanting to look particularly threatening on a consistent basis. Also taking into account the form of Aston Villa, West Ham and Southampton, this year’s top four is very open.
5) There’s no need to overreact
The Premier League table very rarely lies. This it to the point that you finish where you deserve to finish, and you are usually in the table where you belong. Chelsea have played themselves into a position so far this season that they can afford the two losses they’ve taken. It won’t feel nice, but going 17 games unbeaten allows for some leeway.
Lampard knows the strength of his team and how good they can be, especially when he has a fully fit side. The biggest challenge for him will be getting close to emulating that form and rebuilding the team’s confidence.
There are proven players in the team still and rough patches will always happen. Chelsea are still a new team and their unbeaten run won’t have fooled Lampard.
Right now, subtle changes are needed, but overreactions and serious alterations will only hamper the squad moving forward.
Written by: Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
Edited By: Ross-John (RJ) Bonaccorsi (@RJ_Goodthings)