For 51 minutes things were more or less going according to plan.
Chelsea were dominating possession and Leicester City were defending in depth. All the game needed was a breakthrough goal by Chelsea and it would open up.
Instead, Jamie Vardy scored on a break and Chelsea lost their composure. They struggled to maintain possession, misplaced passes and lost control of the game.
The result was Chelsea’s first home loss of the season, Leicester City‘s first win at Stamford Bridge in 18 years, and a confused Maurizio Sarri.
“I think we played very well for 55 minutes. After the goal the reaction was a strange one for me. [Chelsea played] not as a team, but as 11 different players, it was really very strange. We could have done better, the reaction. We had only to continue to play as in the first part of the match. We had time to score, without a reaction of a team shocked, with mental confusion.”
Eden Hazard started in the middle upfront for the third match in a row, in a role so flexible it seems a disservice to call it a false nine. He went wherever he wanted and almost scored in the first half, slamming a piledriver into the crossbar.
“I was really very happy at the end of the first half. We were dangerous, conceded nothing to the opponents. I was happy with the team, with the solution of Hazard as a striker. After the goal the position was important.“
But overall, despite starting crisply once again, the attack never came together. Bringing on Giroud and Ruben Loftus-Cheek didn’t have any impact.
“I wanted only to be more present, also physically in the other box. Apart from the substitutions, it is the reaction not in the right way.”
For Sarri, it once again comes back to mentality. The way Chelsea fell apart in organization and quality is something he’s struggling to get to grips with.
“I don’t know. If I knew I would solve the problem before the match. We have players with experience, it is difficult to understand.”
This was hardly the start Chelsea wanted to their Christmas campaign. They’re clinging to fourth place on goal difference over Arsenal. They may have gifted Claude Puel his job.
If there’s any good news, it’s that they have three Premier League matches in the next 10 days to reassert themselves, starting with Watford on Wednesday.
“It is important to play again in four days. Maybe positive, maybe negative, it depends on our reaction. It depends on the next three days. It is important to play immediately.”
As for the title race, Sarri reiterated the obvious; it’s not going to be Chelsea’s year.
Sarri: “As we said from the beginning of the season, it’s impossible for us to fight for the PL. Liverpool for us, in this moment, is not important” #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) December 22, 2018
Rather than end on a sour note, let’s finish with the best play by Chelsea’s best performer on the day, Kepa Arrizabalaga, who made an outstanding save off of Wilfred Ndidi’s rocket in the first half.