A week anyone connected to Chelsea wouldn’t want to remember preceded this game but if you only watched this game against Southampton, you wouldn’t have realised the recent struggles.
From the first whistle to the last Chelsea dominated Southampton in all aspects and an electric opening half an hour saw goals from Marcos Alonso, Mason Mount, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
The foot wasn’t taken off the gas as Werner and Mount each got their second of the game before the hour mark to move the Blues a step closer to a third place finish.
Thomas Tuchel won’t require chocolate to watch this one back
Wednesday evening was a bad one for all involved with the club and the annoyance from the ease at which Real Madrid left Stamford Bridge with a two goal lead was evident in Thomas Tuchel’s post-match press conference. A few days later he revealed he had to eat chocolate to get through watching the game again later that evening.
This time around that wouldn’t be necessary. Though chances were missed early, Chelsea never looked like relinquishing their grasp on the game whilst showing their ruthless streak in the opening hour. Such was his side’s dominance, the German manager only stepped out of his seat on a couple of occasions. This will come as a much needed confidence boost ahead of the return fixture against Real Madrid.
Magic Mason Mount’s midfield masterclass
After winning Chelsea Player of the Year last season, the Englishman hasn’t let up despite injuries trying to halt his progress. 10 goals and eight assists in the league so far puts him third in the combined goals and assists standings.
Three of those came on Saturday as he flourished in a deeper role linking the midfield and attack. It is a role that a lot of fans think he performs better in, and recent performances would suggest so. A half time change in the 4-0 victory against Burnley saw him drop back from being a part of the front three and consequently he began to influence the action more resulting in the Blues scoring four second half goals in quick time.
The best example of this improvement against Southampton was his role in the build up for the second goal before finishing off the move. Upon receiving Mateo Kovacic’s pass he spread the play to Ruben Loftus-Cheek with a pinpoint lofted ball breaking the lines. Then, after Loftus-Cheek’s deflected cross, he took the ball under his spell and fired in a low right shot that left Fraser Forster with no chance. It was a passage of play his old manager Frank Lampard executed many a time in his playing days.
Timo Werner mixes hope with frustration in sunny Southampton
Occasionally you see performances from certain players that illustrate their time at their club perfectly and that was the case for Werner on Saturday. Moments of frustration with a flash of brilliance mixed in epitomised his Chelsea career in those first 45 minutes.
The game had barely begun before he beat Forster only to see the ball cannon back off the post. Then, the German somehow managed to manoeuvre his free header onto the bar from a matter of yards before a mazy run ended in his shot coming back off the other post. However, the class many saw in him when he signed in June 2020 was evident in his first goal as he sprinted away from Jan Bednarek before sitting down Forster and going round him to put Chelsea 3-0 up.
Undoubtedly Southampton’s setup under Ralph Hasenhüttl favours his strengths due to its Bundesliga similarities with more of his goals coming against Southampton than in the rest of his Premier League games. However, that being said, fans will want to see his bright sparks from this game translated into more consistent performances when called upon.
Mateo Kovacic has been that missing spark in the midfield
In the two defeats against Brentford and Real Madrid, the midfield performances were lacklustre and missing the energy needed to transcend the level raised by the opposition. Both an out of sorts N’golo Kante and Jorginho were playing and dictating play at a similar tempo allowing the opposition defence to regain their shape and enjoy a rather untroubled game.
The silky Croatian was at his gliding best leaving Southampton players scrambling at fresh air and getting the team onto the front foot. Line breaking passes were another common occurrence including the one into Mount ahead of Chelsea’s second goal. Defensively he was actively trying to shut down attacks at the first opportunity albeit the execution of those decision wasn’t always there.
If Chelsea want to rekindle their tie against Real Madrid on Tuesday in the Bernabeu then starting Kovacic has to be a high priority on Tuchel’s list else the European dream will be nothing but a dying ember.
Chelsea’s dogged and determined defence returns against Southampton
The aforementioned games in the week ahead of the Southampton game saw Chelsea ship a combined seven goals. A total that the Blues had conceded in their fourteen previous games in all competitions. Whilst conceding seven across 180 minutes of football would be concerning for any side it was the manner in which they came about to. Individual errors aplenty leading directly to goals and others switching off from the job at hand.
Such was Chelsea’s dominance on Saturday, the defence were mostly tasked with work in possession and ensuring the pressure remained high on the Saints but when called upon they did so with a level of composure that has been missing of late. Also, due to the nature of the game Reece James came on as a second half substitute and filled in seamlessly as a right centre back and not give the Southampton players or fans anything to celebrate about whilst the marauding Loftus-Cheek continued ahead of him.
Written and edited by Harrison Burridge (@hburridge2)