With a crushing blow right after Christmas, Chelsea lose to Southampton 2-0 in disheartening fashion. After a strong and incredible win against Tottenham last weekend at their new stadium, the Blues go two steps back and continue their home record woes with a substandard performance against the Saints. Stamford Bridge once a fortress but now a welcoming house for visitors, has haunted Chelsea fans all season with poor results against mid-table teams.
Chelsea made three changes to their lineup vs Spurs with Emerson replacing Marcos Alonso at LWB, Mateo Kovačić replaced by Jorginho, who has been suspended due to accumulation of yellow cards and Hudson-Odoi replacing Mason Mount keeping the 3-4-3 formation intact.
Right off the bat, Southampton continued to press Chelsea’s backline, not giving room for the Blues to play out from the back. The Saints did a good job covering the passing lanes and forced the home side to make silly passes and errors. Chelsea had a hard time building up from their half and went long at times. Tammy Abraham was outnumbered in the air only managing to win 3 aerials all game. It was a scrappy first half with Southampton pressing on the first touch not allowing Chelsea to have linkup play between the players.
Once Chelsea did break the first line of defense, they let themselves down in the final third not finding the right pass or play. Hudson-Odoi had a poor performance continuing to lose possession on the ball and wasn’t strong enough to handle the Southampton defenders. The Saints used any opportunity to time waste and frustrate the home fans and the home side. The visitors were finally booked after the referee showed a yellow to Ryan Bertrand, the former Blue, for time wasting on the throw in.
Chelsea were trying to change sides of play to find gaps in the wide areas often finding Azpilicueta on the right but his crosses never troubled the backline of the visitors. In the 32nd minute Hudson-Odoi was dispossessed once again on the halfway line and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg laid an excellent elevated through ball past Tomori for Michael Obafemi who took on Zouma 1v1 and cut inside with his left and scored past Kepa to put the Saints 1-0 up.
Chelsea continued to struggle to connect passes with Southampton preventing any sort of linkup play. The ball was moving slow as well frustrating the fans even further. A complete opposite on what transpired last week up north in Tottenham.
In the second half Lampard made a change substituting Kurt Zouma off for Mason Mount and reverting a back four. Mason Mount instantly used his energy pressing the Southampton defence and getting into areas to link up with the attack. Chelsea still gave away the ball easily and their first touch was letting them down time and time again and the Saints recovered the ball easily to punish Chelsea on the counter. No real threat came from the Blues with only half-chances being fabricated from the home side.
Hudson-Odoi was substituted off for Christian Pulisic in the 67th minute after a below-par performance. To make matters worse, Southampton managed to double their lead after an aerial ball found its way to Nathan Redmond who put it past Kepa once again and spelled defeat for the home side. Throughout the whole game Southampton looked the hungrier side winning most of their battles and tackles using their physicality to their advantage. The last change came for Willian and Pedro came on in the 84th minute but it was too late to make an impact. The home side left heartbroken with another home-loss and a bittersweet Boxing Day.
The next fixture is Arsenal away at The Emirates and Chelsea will have to be on their A game to secure a victory. Arsenal drew against Bournemouth and will also look to win in the exciting London Derby. Frank Lampard will have to address the team and instill confidence to replicate a performance from last week. Their top four status is still being pressured with Tottenham reducing the gap to 3 points after their win against Brighton. No doubt Chelsea’s fortitude will be tested once again on Sunday.