Chelsea Stutter in Race for Top Four

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Chelsea top four
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Chelsea players leave the pitch dejected following the Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea FC at London Stadium on July 01, 2020 in London, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Chelsea made their hopes of finishing in the top four exponentially harder after a 3-2 loss at West Ham United last night. Willian scored both for the Blues, with one from the penalty spot. However, the defence once again let the Blues down.

Tomas Soucek scored two for the Hammers but had the first one overruled by VAR. In the second half, Michail Antonio and Andriy Yarmolenko gave the Hammers the lead, with the Ukranian’s strike proving to be the winner in the 89th minute.

With both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United only two points back and bang in form, Chelsea have no more room for error in the fight for Champions League. Chelsea need to sort out the defence pronto if they don’t want to play on Thursday nights next year.

Chelsea’s Top Four Hopes in Doubt After West Ham United Loss

Set Piece and Defense Nightmare

Once again, set pieces doomed the Blues to defeat. Just after a half an hour into the game, a West Ham corner resulted in a scramble inside the six-yard box and Soucek got on the end of it to give the Hammers the lead. Thankfully, for Chelsea at least, VAR overturned the goal.

To make matters worse, in first-half stoppage time, Soucek again found the back of the net from a corner. This time, he rose above Cesar Azpilicueta to level and deflate the Blues going into the interval.

The second West Ham goal came from Antonio Rudiger‘s inability to clear the ball at the top of the box in the 51st minute. The Hammers swung it out to the right and Antonio snuck in behind the back four. Jarrod Bowen crossed it to him inside the six between Rudiger and Andreas Christensen and he easily directed it home to give West Ham the lead.

Once again, the central defenders failed to clear the ball and track runners as has happened on so many occasions this year.

Chelsea then got hit on the counter-attack for the final goal which has been another consistent problem for the club. With Chelsea bombing forward looking for the winner, Declan Rice cleared the ball in the 89th minute and found Antonio as an outlet.

A one-two got the ball back to Antonio who sent through ball to find a streaking Yarmolenko in the right half-space with only Rudiger left to defend. Yarmolenko cut centrally into the box and easily found the bottom left corner.

 

Defence Causes Chelsea Demise All Year

Chelsea have conceded ten goals from set-pieces this year in all competitions. Regardless of home or away, they simply can’t man-mark or zonally mark, which has cost them points against teams they should have beaten, like West Ham.

The problem is, they don’t have many other options. Fikayo Tomori missed through injury and Kurt Zouma is the only other centre-back in the squad. Emerson isn’t a giant among men at left-back, and there’s a reason Reece James was substituted off last weekend at the half against Leicester City in the FA Cup.

Transfer rumours have linked Chelsea with left-back Ben Chilwell and attacker Kai Havertz, but it’s clear Chelsea need help at centre-back much more.

Set pieces have frustratingly been an issue all year. If Chelsea have any hopes of finishing in the top four, they have to shore up the defence.

Willian and Pulisic Shine Again

It’s a good thing Willian signed that short-term extension. The Brazilian scored twice against the Hammers, making it three goals in his last two games. He was a constant thorn in West Ham’s side throughout the match.

Christian Pulisic, too, put in a solid shift, creating both goals. He drew the penalty in the 42nd minute with some fancy footwork that made Issa Diop sloppily challenge for the ball just inside the box.

Then in the 71st minute, Pulisic’s driving run centrally into the final third drew a hard challenge from Rice. Cue Willian again, who bashed in a world-class free-kick off the post.

The two wingers have, without a shadow of a doubt, been Chelsea’s two leading men since the restart.

With the way the defence is playing, those two will have to remain in form to close out the season.

Chelsea host Watford on Saturday and will have to bounce back as their top-four rivals don’t show any signs of slowing down.

 

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