Chelsea may have entered the weekend in first place in the Premier League, but they won’t likely finish the weekend there. The Blues, despite taking the lead twice, fell 3-2 at West Ham on Saturday as the Hammers moved into the top four with a dramatic, late victory. The display was an uncharacteristic one for Thomas Tuchel’s men, who despite seeing a lot of the ball in the final third and produced plenty of shots, they simply created very little real danger. Combined with poor defending and a bit of bad luck, it saw them come away with nothing in the end, blowing a chance to remain at the summit of the table.
The Blues needed less than 30 minutes to take the lead via Thiago Silva’s header, and they also entered the second half up 2-1 after an incredibly volley from Mason Mount. But goals from Jarrod Bowen in the 56th minute and a lucky hit from Arthur Masuaku in the 87th minute were enough to give the Hammers what could be a season-changing victory.
So what do we make of this result for Chelsea? Here’s what to know:
Not getting the space they wanted
Chelsea were able to record 19 shots in the game, a high number, though one they actually topped in recent matches against Manchester United and Burnley, surprisingly enough. They have produced more shots in three of their last six games entering this match, but those have all been matches where they produced better chances from a statistical standpoint. On Saturday, they only had an xG of 1.03, while in the five games from Oct. 23 to Nov. 28, they produced xGs of above 2.0 in each of those matches. It was their fourth lowest xG performance of the season in the Premier League with only Liverpool in a draw, Manchester City in a loss, and Watford midweek holding them to less.
Part of the reason may be due to so much rotation, necessitated due to injury issues the team has had to deal with in attack. Romelu Lukaku has 74 minutes played for the Blues since mid October and American Christian Pulisic has only recently returned from injury, which combined with Timo Werner having just one Premier League goal all season shows that there is a lot of room to grow.
But credit to West Ham, with manager David Moyes switching to a back three and getting some width in the middle to give the Blues trouble, while also getting his team ready for a second half that they dominated. The Blues love to play down those flanks and didn’t have the opportunities they wanted as the Hammers produced an inspiring display.
Put all that together and it left Chelsea with plenty of possession (62.9%) but as the combination of lots of shots and low xG demonstrates, very little ability to actually break West Ham down. West Ham stayed organized, kept bodies between the ball and their own goal, and generally made life difficult for Chelsea’s attackers. It took a great volley from Mount to score from open play and a tough header from Silva on a set piece. It’s a concern that despite spending large stretches of the match chasing the lead, Chelsea were unable to create the kind of good chances that Tuchel sides usually feast on.
In the end, a draw probably would have been the most fair result, but Chelsea were simply not good enough on this day to win.
Defensive issues and some bad luck
The three goals conceded marked the first time they’ve let in that many this season in any competition, while it marks just the third time all calendar year where a team has been able score that many times on them. Now, one was on a penalty kick and the last one on a bit of a fluke that caught goalkeeper Edouard Mendy looking the other way, but it is part of a bit of an underwhelming run of form. The Blues have won just one of their last three games, and that was a fortunate come-from-behind win at Watford on Dec. 1.
So should supporters be concerned? The answer is no, not yet. Let’s remember that this is a team that when healthy proved to be the best in Europe by conquering the Champions League last season. Based on strength and unison at the back with movement and quick passing going forward, this current version is far from the full-strength side. There were some mental errors, like Mendy’s silly challenge to give West Ham a penalty kick, but that’s stuff that can be cleaned up. With N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic still out due to injury, and with Tuchel trying to slowly get Lukaku back into the mix of things, this should be viewed as more of a hiccup than a hitch.
The Blues will aim to get back on track on Wednesday against Zenit in the Champions League, live at 12:45 p.m. ET on Paramount+.