Chelsea missed the chance to cement their position in the Top Four of the Premier League, as struggling Southampton held Tuchel’s Blues to a dour draw at St Mary’s. In a game of very few clear cut chances, it finished Southampton 1-1 Chelsea.
Takumi Minamino opened the scoring for the home side, finishing expertly during a first half dominated by Chelsea.
The visitors needed a penalty from Mason Mount, scored early in the second half, to get back on level terms after struggling to turn their dominance into big chances throughout the afternoon. The lunchtime kickoff ended in disappointment as it finished Southampton 1-1 Chelsea.
In team news, Edouard Mendy, Reece James, Kurt Zouma and N’Golo Kanté all started as Thomas Tuchel made four changes to the side that beat Newcastle 2-0 on Monday night.
There was a big difference in form ahead of the lunchtime kick-off at St. Mary’s. Home side Southampton were on a run of six straight defeats, including a record-equalling 9-0 loss away to Manchester United. Chelsea on the other hand have had their season completely reignited by the arrival of Tuchel. The German remained unbeaten at the club so far.
Chelsea’s first big chance of the afternoon fell to wing-back Alonso, who almost converted a lightning-quick counter-attack in stunning style. Werner’s lovely turn on the halfway line saw his side breaking at pace. The ball worked out wide to James. The fullback clipped a ball in to the Spaniard at the back post, but his volley flew just wide.
That chance with less than five minutes gone set the tone for the opening stages of the game. Saints sat deep as Chelsea enjoyed long spells of purposeful possession, moving the ball around cleverly and often falling just short when it came to the final ball. With only 25% possession in the first half an hour, Southampton were most definitely playing like a team coming off the back of six losses. Chelsea had to capitalise on that quickly.
However, capitalising on the domination was just about the opposite of what happened.
In the rarest of foray’s forward, Southampton’s Liverpool loanee Takumi Minamino showed unbelievable composure to give his side the lead. Finding acres of space between the centre backs Zouma and Azpilicueta, Minamino was played through on goal by Nathan Redmond. The winger proceeded to take all the time in the world, dropping both Mendy and Azpilicueta to the floor before rolling it home into and empty net. Southampton 1-0 Chelsea.
It was an opening goal that came so against the run of play. The following hour of football would be Tuchel’s biggest test as Chelsea manager so far. His side needed to pick themselves up and turn the game around.
HT: Southampton 1-0 Chelsea
Tuchel’s half time team talk would be vital as his team entered the break trailing. He also made a tactical change. Callum Hudson-Odoi came on in place of Tammy Abraham. The striker appeared to have picked up a knock of some sort as he returned to the bench with an ice pack strapped to his ankle.
The substitution meant a slight reshuffle was in order, as Werner moved to a central role with Hudson-Odoi and Mount in behind.
Chelsea continued to move the ball quickly after the break and just as in the first half, it felt like it was only a matter of time before the visitors carved out a chance to get them back into the game.
Less than ten minutes in, that chance arrived as Mount, a lifelong fan of Saints’ biggest rivals Portsmouth, worked his way into the box before being chopped down by striker Danny Ings. The epitome of a forward’s challenge, Mount cut inside onto his left foot, nutmegging Ings who couldn’t resist sticking out a leg and bringing the Chelsea midfielder down. An extremely short VAR check confirmed Anthony Taylor’s on pitch decision – it was a penalty.
Spot kicks have been far from guaranteed goals for Chelsea this season. Regular taker Jorginho, who himself has missed three already, was on the bench and Werner has publicly confirmed his intention to not take them.
Stepping up was Mount, almost in a playground rules style of ‘win it – take it’, and the youngster made no mistake as he calmly stroked into the bottom corner and drew his side level. Southampton 1-1 Chelsea.
It was a brilliant time for Chelsea to equalise and left them over half an hour to find a winner and claim all three points.
Almost in the exact same fashion as in the first half, a short spell of Southampton pressure nearly resulted in another unlikely goal. Two corners in quick succession ended in a looping Vestergaard header catching Mendy totally off guard. The Senegalese unmoved as the effort bounced off the crossbar.
Tuchel made his final two changes with 15 minutes to go; Hakim Ziyech and Jorginho came on. They replaced Hudson-Odoi and Kovacic. It was a strange one as Hudson-Odoi was only introduced at half-time. The winger didn’t appear to have an injury and the change seemed to be tactical. Perhaps Tuchel wanted to add Ziyech’s creativity for the closing stages of the game, without losing Mount’s work rate – leaving Hudson-Odoi the only option to be replaced.
Southampton were solid in the closing stages of the game, soaking up countless spells of Chelsea pressure and reducing them to little-to-no clear cut chances.
Reece James had the visitors best opportunity late on, as a cross in from the left went all the way through to him at the back post, however, the Chelsea wing-back snatched at his first-time effort and lashed it over the bar. Thomas Tuchel’s reaction summed it up.
The point means that Chelsea could lose their position in the Top Four by the end of the weekend if West Ham can beat Tottenham at home on Sunday.
Chelsea remain unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel, however they now step into arguable their toughest run of the entire season, starting with the return of the Champions League on Tuesday against La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.
FT: Southampton 1-1 Chelsea
Southampton 1-1 Chelsea: Final Thoughts
A limp and lifeless performance. Chelsea created very little despite their possession. Southampton were happy to sit back and let us pass in front of them, springing into life to intercept. Salisu and Djenepo were both brilliant for the Saints.
As for Chelsea, it was a game crying out for the physicality and link-up ability of Giroud. Tuchel appears to be sacrificing attacking prowess for defensive solidity at the moment. A lot of improvement needed, however, it is early days still. If we must find a positive, both N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount played brilliantly.
Tuesday’s match will be very difficult.
Written by Dom Domaingue (@dmdsport)
Edited by Rob Pratley