The weather was fairfly frightful, but Chelsea’s fire was quite delightful as we produced a solid overall performance on Boxing Day+1 at Stamford Bridge tonight — certainly in the first half — and beat AFC Bournemouth rather easily, 2-0.
Of course, we “should” be beating any newly promoted team, but given our form before the break, the lengthy international break itself, not to mention the Cherries’ habit of getting results against us (we had won just one of the previous five in the league against them), it was indeed a good win. And perhaps more importantly, it came as a result of good, proactive play from us, rather than just opposition mistakes or lucky bounces. The attacking quartet of Kai Havertz, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount, and Christian Pulisic created countless chances, and the returning Reece James made his expected positive impact as well. And we even kept a clean sheet!
Graham Potter, not oblivious to the growing discontent around the fanbase, was certainly happy with the outcome.
“Credit to the players. You’re never sure how it’ll go with the break we had. The first-half performance was good. The attitude was fantastic. The players tried their best. It was a deserved win. We had to hold on. Bournemouth made it competitive.”
“It’s a step forward for us as a team. We weren’t in the best of moments [before the break]. You have to use breaks as best you can. Evaluate and reassess and get injured players back. We used it as best we could even with players coming back at different times.”
-Graham Potter; source: BBC Sport
Unfortunately, this being our last game of the calendar year, 2022 still had time to get in one shot before departing forever, as Reece James appeared to reinjure his knee early in the second half. His return was such a holiday blessing; his distraught exit very much taking the shine off this result. At least he was able to walk off under his own power.
The hope is that he didn’t actually reinjure the knee (or worse), but rather just tweak something, which can happen in any sort of rehab process. Not to paint the devil on the wall, but I remember coming back from my ACL and feeling all sorts of weird and occasionally even painful little twinges in that knee as muscles get used to being used again and tendons get restretched to where they need to be, and so on. James didn’t have surgery (and hopefully won’t need one now either), but the rehab is very similar for any knee strain. So hopefully it’s just a little tweak and we see Reecey back very soon.
“It’s the same area so we’re concerned. We’ll have to see in the next 24/48 hours. [...] There was that action, a chop, and he felt something then. We’ll have to see the extent of it and keep our fingers crossed.
“He is disappointed, of course. But again, we’re right now at a stage where we’re just hoping it isn’t as bad and we’re keeping our fingers crossed. [...] You can see today with his quality what he brings to the team. He has had to deal with the injury and try to get back fit. I think he’s done that well.
“We were taking steps and the plan was for him to not play 90 tonight. He was to play 60/65 minutes which was a build-up from what he did previously. So now he’s disappointed and we’ve just got to hope it’s not as bad as it was and he can get on a speedy recovery.”
“[...] To see him go off, it affects the stadium, the team, everything. That isn’t an excuse but we’re human beings and he is someone we care a lot about. There is going to be some concern and worry and I think that’s natural. Given the results we’ve had too, you want to try to hold on to your win and I think that affected our performance in the second half. Reece is a world-class player [...] an incredible player, one who would fit into any team in the world. Any team would miss him.”
-Graham Potter; source: Football.London
Running out of fingers to cross!