Chelsea needed a wonderful free-kick from Marcos Alonso to secure a hard-fought 1-0 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon. Here are four things we learned from that match:
Marcos Alonso once again plays a key role
Marcos Alonso has been one of the most productive players for Chelsea during the past two seasons. The Spaniard has flourished as a left-wing back, and he constantly pushes the lines forward trying to exploit the spaces generated by the attackers. And this game wasn’t any different, as Alonso scored the winning goal against Southampton during stoppage time of the first half. He lined up to take a free kick around 30 yards away from the goal, and blasted a strong left-footed shot that sneaked into an impossible angle for Fraser Forster.
The numbers back Alonso’s importance for Chelsea. Since joining Chelsea from Fiorentina last season, the Spaniard has 10 goals in 49 Premier League appearances. He already has four goals in 18 EPL appearances during the current term, and has established himself as one of the best dual-threats in the Premier League. He has been key for Chelsea, and displayed it once again.
Southampton looked overmatched throughout the entire match
The Saints didn’t have a good performance, but unfortunately that has been the norm for them of late. Southampton were coming off a 1-4 defeat against Leicester City, and now they failed to represent much of a threat against a more experienced, more talented Chelsea side.
So’ton have not been able to play at a high level of late, and the results back that up. The Saints are currently riding a five-game Premier League winless run, and they have registered just one win in their last nine EPL contests. They have managed to keep themselves afloat and have 18 points in 18 matches – good for 12th place – but they need to find a way to turn things around soon. Otherwise, they will be poised to engage on a relegation battle in the coming months.
Chelsea keep a clean sheet for the first time in five games
Chelsea have one of the best defences in the English Premier League, but they had not been up to the expectations in recent weeks. In fact, they conceded at least one goal in each of their last four games, a period where they registered two wins, one draw, and one loss. But fortunately for them, that negative streak ended on Saturday, as Chelsea held Southampton scoreless.
The Saints only registered six goal attempts, and two shots on target during the entire game. That was not enough to threaten Chelsea’s defensively line, and Courtois barely had to work to earn his clean sheet. Chelsea’s overall strength work on defence should be something to build on, as The Blues have a relatively easy schedule coming up against Bournemouth, Everton, Brighton, and Stoke before playing against Arsenal on January 3, 2018.
Eden Hazard did not look comfortable as a striker
Antonio Conte used his typical 3-4-3 system, but the attacking line was a bit different. Instead of using a classic striker such as Alvaro Morata or Mitchy Batshuayi, Conte chose to field Pedro, Willian and Eden Hazard at the same time. Pedro and Willian operated on the wings, while Hazard played in some sort of “False 9” role, similar to what Lionel Messi used to do in FC Barcelona a few years ago.
The idea had decent reasoning behind it, but it did not work as expected. Hazard looked quite uncomfortable as a centre forward, and even though his pace and mobility would have been a plus, he looked lost between the central defenders. Perhaps Conte wanted to try something new, but he needs to stick with what he knows, and that is playing each player on his best role. It’s safe to say we can expect Chelsea to slot Hazard back on his natural winger role sooner than later.
Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses (Zappacosta, 82′), Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Willian, Pedro (Fabregas, 68′); Hazard (Morata, 73′)
Southampton: Forster; Stephens, Yoshida, Hoedt; Cedric (Lemina, 17′), Romeu, Hojbjerg (Boufal, 72′), Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Redmond; Gabbiadini (Austin, 61′)
Goals: Alonso (1-0, 45+3′)
Yellow Cards: Alonso (CHE); Yoshida, Stephens, Redmond (SOU)
Red Cards: None
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