To view the August edition of Blue Review, click here.
In the second edition of a new monthly series on my blog, Blue Review will review everything Chelsea from the month, covering the matches, the lessons and the players. For the September edition, I’m delighted to be welcoming back fellow Chelsea fan and aspiring Journalist Will Reyner, who returns to contribute his thoughts about the month just gone alongside me.
Bournemouth, Premier League
In recent times, Bournemouth have been a bit of a ‘bogey’ team for Chelsea, so there was a bit of scepticism surrounding this game. I had flashbacks of last season’s 3-0 home defeat, the peak of our troubles last season. However, under Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea were firing in the league. Hazard was on top form, Pedro was re-inventing himself and Jorginho was pulling the strings from midfield. Second half goals from Pedro and Hazard capped off a solid performance to send the Blues to top spot.
Cardiff, Premier League
Written off and destined for relegation from the start, Cardiff travelled to the Bridge with little hope of salvaging a result. However Chelsea went behind courtesy of a Sol Bamba header and some sloppy marking. After a shaky start it really became the Eden Hazard show, as he scored his first Chelsea hat-trick since 2014 against Newcastle. Two wonderful goals, helped by the hold-up play from Olivier Giroud who Hazard hailed as the best target man in the world, and a vintage classy penalty completed his hat-trick. With the score at 3-1, Willian scored a thunderbolt to rub salt in the wounds of the Cardiff players. A truly dominant display from the Blues.
PAOK, Europa League
Chelsea’s first Europa League test was arguably the hardest they’ll face in the group stages; an away trip to PAOK in Thessaloniki. A strong team from Maurizio Sarri paid off, as the Blues picked up all three points thanks to an early Willian goal. It was good to see that Sarri is taking the Europa League seriously, but whether this could prove costly in the long-term is uncertain. The score could easily have been more than 1-0, with numerous squandered chances. Nevertheless, three points in Chelsea’s first run out in the competition since the 2013 final triumph is the perfect start, and it shows promise for the rest of the group stage.
West Ham, Premier League
There is no denying that Chelsea’s performance at the London Stadium was hindered by the away trip to Greece, especially considering that the team only landed in London less than 48 hours before for the London derby. Despite Sarri and the players insisting it played no effect on the performance, I think it evidently did prove costly. Both teams had good chances, with Morata and Yarmolenko missing the biggest ones as the match ended in a stalemate, therefore ending Chelsea’s 100% league record. In last month’s edition, I said, “A potential European headache could affect the West Ham game”. Unfortunately, I was right, but one point gained is better than none.
Liverpool, Carabao Cup
Liverpool and Chelsea locked horns in what was essentially a chance to rest the regulars, with both teams making seven changes each. Cesc Fàbregas had a good game – one of the few players to show quality for the majority of the 90 minutes. Unfortunately, Andreas Christensen wasn’t able to make his mark on the game and help his challenge for Luiz’s spot, with a series of wayward passes and lapses in concentration. Former Blue Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring with an acrobatic effort, only to be cancelled out by Emerson’s first goal for the Blues, which VAR had to check. Then, up stepped the best player in the world currently, Eden Hazard who scored a spectacular solo-effort. Chelsea won the game 2-1, becoming the first team to beat Liverpool this season.
Liverpool, Premier League
In a fantastic game of football, we had the advantage going into the game having won at Anfield three days earlier. A tense game sprung to life in the twenty-fifth minute, when a beautiful pass from Mateo Kovačić put Eden Hazard in on goal, who finished sublimely as always. We could’ve taken all three points, but an absolutely incredible strike from Daniel Sturridge saw the points shared at Stamford Bridge. Some will only see it as two points dropped, yet a point against a team with a 100% league record is good news. A solid performance to cap off a solid month.
PRO: Perfect team has been identified
We have learned that Sarri has his perfect XI assembled; one that we can almost guarantee will start all the big matches. Sarri seems to have given us a consistency that we lacked last season under Conte, as we go into games with the intent to win, and the intent to play beautiful football.
Our midfield is a thing of beauty, and they complement each other so well. Jorginho is metronomic, Kanté is determined and Kovačić is fierce. Another unbeaten month sees Hazard as top scorer in the league and Jorginho top of the passing charts. Huge credit must go to Sarri this month for unlocking consistency and balance, and there’s plenty more to come. Up the Chels.
CON: Schedule struggles early on
It is hard to pick out a negative from an unbeaten month, but I would pick out the slight struggle with the tough schedule. Sarri has already complained about having a Europa League game on the Thursday followed by a league game on the Sunday.
It was unfortunate to see us drop two points at the London Stadium, but in some respect I am happy with the outcome. Sarri has experienced the effect of a tough fixture schedule in England in the early days of September, rather than the decisive month of December. The festive period has a brutal schedule, and now Sarri has had a taste of what that is like he will be better prepared come winter. I am certain that the result at West Ham will show importance when, come December, Sarri is more experienced and more aware of how to play his cards.
What else is there to say about Eden Hazard? He is an absolute joy to watch, a gifted, technical and skilful player who I am proud to have represent Chelsea Football Club. Hazard had an outstanding month, scoring 6 goals in 5 games during September and earning a place in the FIFA FIFPro World XI. This includes a fantastic hat-trick against Cardiff City and a league goal against Liverpool. However, the pick of the bunch was a sensational individual goal in the League Cup tie against the Reds, arguably his best in Blue. Hazard was by far Chelsea’s best player of September, and is really proving himself as one of the best footballers in Europe and the world.
Kovačić joined Chelsea from Real Madrid on a season-long-loan on deadline day in August, and what a signing he’s been. He has a great work ethic and helps run the midfield trio perfectly alongside Jorginho and Kanté. He has bundles of energy, astute dribbling ability and a great appetite for defending. What sets him apart from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley is his diligence when it comes to doing the dirty work; he is a truly solid signing who we hope to stay for a long time.
I don’t like having to repeatedly criticise him, but Morata just isn’t up to standards. 1 goal in 9 games is not good enough for a striker, especially a Chelsea striker. He had several chances in multiple games, but he just isn’t finding the back of the net. He lacks the ruthlessness and finishing of his predecessor Diego Costa, who is clearly missed at Stamford Bridge. Of course, it isn’t easy for someone who has no confidence, but nevertheless if our goals aren’t coming from our main striker then there is a problem.
Wayward, unreliable and a lack of concentration, David Luiz is starting to ride his luck this season, and he is a true liability at the back. Although he hasn’t been directly at fault for a goal this season, he will be if he carries on the way he is doing. Rüdiger is having to cover many of his mistakes, and with the already prone Alonso on the same side, it’s a recipe for disaster unless something changes. However, he is capable of some magnificent performances, displayed in the league game against Liverpool. He was instead covering mistakes from others and playing some unbelievable passes. If he can maintain this form in the coming games he will be a true asset to the team, but he needs to first achieve this consistency.
After the second international break of the season, things get tough for Chelsea. Three games in eight days will be a challenge for Maurizio’s men, along with a League Cup game that will be mere days after our visit to Burnley. It is a decent run of fixtures, with the greatest challenge surely being the visit of José Mourinho’s Manchester United on 20 October. The full fixture list is as follows:
4 October: Vidi (H) Europa League
7 October: Southampton (A) Premier League
20 October: Manchester United (H) Premier League
25 October: BATE Borisov (H) Europa League
28 October: Burnley (A) Premier League
29-31 October: Derby County (H) Carabao Cup
In my opinion they are all winnable games, and after a very impressive September I have every confidence in the team. At the end of the August edition of Blue Review, I talked about the fact that we needed to gain momentum early on, and we certainly delivered on that.
A strong start to the season has been the perfect opening to Sarri’s tenure at Stamford Bridge, and I don’t see why we can’t keep it up and continue to challenge for the title. So, the real question is could we see another Italian win the league in his first season at the Bridge? With the way things are going at the moment, why not?
Written by Nischal Schwager-Patel and Will Reyner
Edited by Nischal Schwager-Patel
Twitter: @NischalsBlog and @will_reyner