Saturday, January 22, 2022

Chelsea drops points vs. Brighton as Manchester City end 2021 with eight-point lead atop Premier League

Chelsea welcomed Romelu Lukaku back to the starting lineup but it wasn’t enough as Danny Welbeck had the last laugh in a 1-1 draw against Brighton on Wednesday. Lukaku found the scoresheet for the second straight game but Welbeck found the end of Marc Cucurella’s cross to beat the Chelsea backline in the 91st minute and earn a point for the Seagulls. The loss dropped second-place Chelsea eight points behind Manchester City, who beat Brentford on Wednesday.

The match began with an onslaught of Chelsea corners, but the Blues weren’t able to make anything happen from them. In the 21st minute, there was a worry for Chelsea as Andres Christensen went down with a knock. He continued initially, but the defense was soon dealt a blow as Reece James needed to be withdrawn due to a suspected hamstring injury. While the extent of the injury is unknown, the need for an outside back in the transfer market just went up a level for Chelsea, who are already without Ben Chilwell.

James would be replaced by Marcos Alonso, and, seconds after the switch, a Mason Mount corner found the head of Romelu Lukaku to give Chelsea a 1-0 advantage. After the half, Christensen would be withdrawn in favor of Trevoh Chalobah, signaling that his injury is worse than initially expected.

Brighton couldn’t create much early in the second half but did get their chances during corners. Chelsea’s best chance was a solo run by Callum Hudson-Odoi in the 55th minute but instead of shooting, he decided to cross the ball and Joel Veltman was there to clean things up. 

Brighton would take advantage by using their exceptional defense to hold strong, giving themselves a chance. It was a chance that they took with Welbeck netting a 91st-minute goal for the 10th-place Seagulls.

Here are a few takeaways from the match:

Dropped points everywhere

This stings a little as Chelsea have allowed the second-fewest goals in the Premier League behind only Manchester City. This happened in the draw with Everton as well as the lost against West Ham, but when a team like Chelsea gets ahead, they’re expected to finish the job. While an ailing defense won’t help with keeping leads late, Thomas Tuchel will need to figure out how to get the team a killer instinct as the top-four landscape can change in the blink of an eye with so many teams having games in hand due to COVID postponements.

Cucurella shines again for Brighton

Marc Cucurella had an immense game for Brighton collecting an assist, completing 12 ball recoveries, and winning most of his duels and tackles. But it’s just another day at the office even though he was pushed into a different position to accommodate Solly March. Cucurella is normally a wing back but was played as a center back and didn’t miss a beat. Since signing from Getafe, he has been a bright spot in the Brighton defense and will continue to shine as he grows more comfortable with the Premier League.

Both sides need help during the transfer window

Brighton were reportedly close to signing Odsonne Edouard during the summer, and watching him find his legs for Crystal Palace has to hurt. While Leandro Trossard was injured Wednesday, finding other attackers without him has to be a priority for Brighton when the transfer window opens. 

If James misses a significant amount of time, Chelsea need a wing back even more and while they’ve been linked to names like Sergino Dest and Lucas Digne, the clock is ticking.

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