Chelsea huffed and puffed but were unable to blow through Southampton’s determined, five-at-the-back defending. It might have been the south coasters’ best defensive effort of the season, with Ralph Hasenhüttl occasionally throwing in a press to confuse Chelsea.
Still, the Blues controlled large parts of the match. However, they lacked the spark up front to actually grab a goal. Ruben Lofus-Cheek came on for Willian in the 38th minute and had little impact on the game — which may be due to a back problem.
Sarri says 'Loftus' is not physically at 100%. He has back trouble.— Dan Levene (@danlevene) January 2, 2019
Maurizio Sarri sees the problem. But if he has a solution to Chelsea’s toothlessness, he didn’t share it in his presser.
“I tried to do my job I think. On the bench I tried to do my job.”
“We played very good for 80 metres of the pitch, then in trouble for the last 20 metres. It is not easy to create a lot of goal opportunities in this kind of match. It was not easy.”
“If you can get the first goal you can create opportunities. We have to solve the problem of the last 15-20 metres.”
“In the last matches we have been in full control. For us it is not easy to score the first goal. We have to solve this problem.”
It wasn’t until Cesc Fàbregas came on — in what was his 500th appearance in English football — for a quiet Ross Barkley with 25 minutes to go that Chelsea looked consistently dangerous. Were it not for a questionable offside call by the linesman, his pass to Álvaro Morata might have provided the match-winning goal.
“I don’t know, it was too far from the bench to see it clear. I saw the two goals by Giroud in the last match, I don’t know if he was offside in that match, it was difficult. I have no idea about this goal.”
#Fabregas made a point of applauding the fans after #cfc’s dull 0-0 draw with Southampton. If this was his farewell, he deserved to go out on a much better note. pic.twitter.com/zkmKPzf1V4— Simon Johnson (@sjstandardsport) January 2, 2019
Willian’s early departure adds to what is now a legitimate injury crisis at the forward position. Unless somebody recovers pronto, Chelsea will be without the services of Willian, Pedro, Callum-Hudson Odoi and Oliver Giroud. That only leaves Eden Hazard, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Morata and forgotten man Victor Moses to fill the front line.
Fortunately, it sounds like Willian could recover quickly, reportedly feeling a calf twinge after a rough challenge by Maya Yoshida.
Sarri on injuries: 'Willian's injury is not really very serious. Also for Pedro, in one week he will be able to train with team-mates. In this match it was very difficult because Pedro was out, Giroud was out, Hudson-Odoi was out, after 35 minutes Willian.'#CHESOU— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 2, 2019
Even though Chelsea made their first move of the January window the day it opened, Sarri characteristically refused to be drawn on solving his problems by adding new players, saying it’s up to the board. His job is on the pitch.
Sarri adds he isn't thinking about the transfer market, and that his job is on the training ground. Transfers, he says, will depend on the board.#CHESOU— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 2, 2019
With just one point from a possible six in their last two home matches, and with Manchester United on a winning streak since sacking Jose Mourinho, the gap to the Mancunians has shrunk from eleven to six. To Sarri, it’s to be expected.
“Manchester United fighting for the top four is normal. They only had a bad period, it can happen.”
“They are one of the best teams in England or Europe, it is normal that they will fight for the top four.”
-Maurizio Sarri; Source: football.london
The relentless schedule doesn’t ease up; not for a team that’s still chugging along in all the cups.
Up next are Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, and Sarri is very limited in who he can rest for this match. That is a worry, since the first leg of the League Cup semifinal against Tottenham shows up on Tuesday. The last thing the Chelsea gaffer wants to do is field a tired team against them; not after getting battered the last time we went to Wembley.
So, fingers crossed that Chelsea’s trainers can work their magic. Other than Sarri, perhaps the person most earnestly hoping they can pull it off is CHO, who has a sterling opportunity to get some important playing time on his favored side of the attack.