The Blues will be disappointed with their performance against Wolves today; star man Eden Hazard salvaged an undeserved point for his side in the 92nd minute.
Visitors Wolves put on a spectacular defensive display, absorbing pressure and counter-attacking with speed and conviction. Forwards Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez were patient in waiting for their chance on the ball, and linked up superbly for their 56th minute goal.
This result keeps Maurizio Sarri’s men in sixth place in the league, behind Manchester United and Arsenal, who play later today.
Chelsea still have a game in hand on the rest of their top six opposition, but their fate is still slipping out of their control. Here are the four things we learned from this afternoon’s draw at Stamford Bridge.
1. Possession means nothing
Keeping the ball away from your opposition is undoubtedly a key component in winning a football match, but it counts for nothing unless you can put the ball in the back of the net.
In the first half, Chelsea enjoyed a comfortable 77% of possession, and had all of the half’s five shots; only one of them hit the target however, and three of the five shots were from outside the box and were blocked before they even began to worry Rui Patricio in the Wolves net.
Chelsea were far too low-tempo and lethargic in moving the ball into the box, and were too happy to just patiently pass the ball around the visitor’s 18-yard box. We have seen this way too often from Sarri’s side this season, and it is becoming too easy to defend against. If the opposition get men behind the ball and stay disciplined, Chelsea always seem to struggle.
2. Sarri willing to change?
When Raul Jimenez’s shot trickled over the line to give Wolves the lead in the 56th minute, Sarri decided to change things up, for once.
He finally listened to what the fans want, and brought on Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, for Kovacic and Pedro respectively.
Loftus-Cheek and Hudson-Odoi are undoubtedly favourites amongst the Chelsea faithful, and have been putting in excellent cameo appearances off the bench whenever they have been given the opportunity this season. When they came on, Chelsea definitely seemed like they turned it up a notch and showed more desire to penetrate the Wolves box.
Sarri’s third substitution was even more shocking and trend-breaking. He decided to take off his main man Jorginho, who has been a mainstay in his side since they both arrived from Napoli at the start of the season, for Willian. Another winger.
This is the first time all season that Chelsea have not played a regista – a deep lying, play-making midfielder – all season. It is also the first time Chelsea have had less than three midfielders on the pitch.
This meant for the last 20 minutes, Chelsea changed from their standard 4-3-3 to a rather bonkers 4-2-4, with Hazard, Hudson-Odoi and Willian free-roaming around Higuain, with an attacking midfielder in Loftus-Cheek further supplementing that strike force.
This did not make breaking Wolves down any easier however, and is far from the reason why Chelsea were able to clinch a point. But at least for the first time this season Chelsea fans have seen their manager try something new, and acknowledge that his tactic is not as all-powerful and world-beating as he thinks.
3. Wolves have a bright future ahead of them
Enough on how bad Chelsea were. Wolves were outstanding.
With the amount of quality in their ranks, most of them young with acres of potential, and their forward-thinking, tactically brilliant manager, it makes them candidates for European football in the next couple of years.
If they can hold onto Nuno Espirito Santo and star players like Ruben Neves, Jota and prospect Gibbs-White, they have all the tools required to try and break into that Premier League top six.
They have excellent fans and a wealthy board that backs the coach, I can see them in the top half of the division for many years to come.
4. Chelsea need Hazard to stay, now more than ever
For what seems like the 1000th time this season, Eden Hazard has stepped up to the helm and produced that bit of magic to save an unconvincing Chelsea team.
The Belgian has been linked away from Stamford Bridge for what seems like an eternity, and it is seeming more and more likely now with how poor Real Madrid have been this season. Hazard has expressed his desire to play in the Spanish capital on multiple occasions, and Los Blancos are very much in need of a superstar who can produce a bit of magic when the rest of the team is not performing – sound familiar?
And with an impending transfer embargo on the horizon, Chelsea’s board will be trying everything they can to convince Hazard to stay. But with just a year left on his contract, they run the risk of him leaving on a free next January – which could be even worse financially than selling him this summer for big bucks.