Chelsea Still A Work In Progress

Chelsea became the first team of the 2018/19 Premier League season to inflict defeat on Manchester City, courtesy of their 2-0 triumph...

Chelsea became the first team of the 2018/19 Premier League season to inflict defeat on Manchester City, courtesy of their 2-0 triumph at Stamford Bridge. Pep Guardiola’s men appeared to be on a path towards matching the exploits of Arsenal’s “Invincibles” due to their imperious start to the term.

The Blues entered the contest fresh of a humbling 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers on the road, allowing the newly-promoted side to rally from behind to claim the win. Although City put Maurizio Sarri’s men on the back foot, they were never able to land a telling blow before N’Golo Kante seized on Chelsea’s only chance of the first half to put them ahead. The rearguard held firm under pressure from the reigning champions, which allowed David Luiz to score the decisive strike to secure the three points and end City’s unbeaten run in the Premier League.

Chelsea matched the pace of City and Liverpool at the top of the table in the early stages of the campaign, but fell away after drawing a string of games and losing on the road to Tottenham and Wolves. The Blues are in contention for a Champions League place, being backed 2/5 in the Premier League betting odds to finish in the top four, although the presence of Arsenal behind them will be a concern to Sarri.

Arsenal and Chelsea are in similar positions, having new managers in their first seasons in the Premier League. Unai Emery’s team endured back-to-back defeats to start the term, but since then have found their form. The Gunners do not have the one outstanding player that Chelsea boasts in the form of Eden Hazard, although their attack is more balanced in the final third. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, and Mesut Ozil provide a potent three-pronged attack, while there are further options behind them with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi.

The Blues’ success runs through form, although encouragingly they were able to beat City without a talismanic performance from the Belgian. Sarri appears to be still feeling his way with his side’s approach – given the age and quality of the key areas of the team. Outside of Hazard, there’s not a consistent threat in the final third, while the middle of the park has been unsettled regarding the positions of key players such as Kante. Jorginho has met expectations since his move, while outside of him there are talented players in the form of Ross Barkley, Mateo Kovacic, and Loftus-Cheek vying for roles.

There’s plenty of room for growth in Chelsea’s play, being only 16 games into the reign of Sarri in the Premier League. It has not been the roaring success of Antonio Conte’s first year in charge at Stamford Bridge, but patience may be the name of the game for the Blues to bring success not just for the short term in their battle to regain a Champions League place. There’s a bigger game at hand to launch the club back into contention for the crown to match the pace of City and potentially Liverpool – if the Merseysiders are able to maintain their impressive form.

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