The “new coach boost” did not last long for Southampton. Coming from two consecutive losses after conquering their fourth and fifth victories of the season in new coach Ralph Hasenhüttl’s first two games, the sullied Saints were predictably timid at the Bridge.
Much like Palace, their intentions was to frustrate Chelsea from defending deep and closing down spaces near their box to force the hosts into lofting balls to the box or just shoot from long range. Whenever possible, they would drive down our pushed up flanks and/or try to find Danny Ings and a miraculous chance against our goal with deep passes from their backline.
As was the case with the Palace match, Chelsea started by dominating possession but being unable to break through the Saints’ bulwark. Hurt by their slow passing game and the lack of movement in the final third, the visitors started to feel a bit more confident about their chances and started to fancy moving their lines higher up the pitch.
Soon they were reminded not to do so, as Chelsea started to find chances on breaks and long balls while Southampton were simply unable to hold the ball for long. The once drab affair started to gain some life, with the Blues knocking on their opponents’ door and only missing the target thanks to blocks and timely interventions from their young goalkeeper Angus Gunn.
After half-time, Southampton found a new degree of courage within themselves. They were still deep-rooted into their defensive third most of the time, but they attempt to break into attacks a bit more often. And with Chelsea failing to translate ball retention into proper chances on a consistent basis — or just wasting the chances they created with indecisiveness in front of the goal —, the second half was all a much easier affair for the Saints to deal with.
Thankfully they would still be let down by their own talents. Otherwise, it feels as if we could have seen a repeat of our last game against Leicester today.
- As somewhat expected, Álvaro Morata gets the starting nod as Chelsea’s centre-forward in place of the injured Olivier Giroud. Everything else is unchanged from the lineup that got us three points at Selhurst Park last weekend with a 1-0 victory over Palace.
- Another potential injury scare for us with Willian leaving the pitch for RLC at the 37th minute. Meanwhile, Cesc Fàbregas got himself a (last?) substitute cameo, replacing Barkley at minute 68.
- Next up: Nottingham Forest at home for the FA Cup’s fourth round.