After holding on to a 2-1 lead against Leicester City, Chelsea are in action for their first midweek game for the 2022/23 season with an interesting trip to Saint Mary’s Stadium.
Chelsea were very lucky to escape with all three points, Leicester City’s wastefulness in front of the goal was the difference between them securing a point and three. It was a very good day for Raheem Sterling to score both of Chelsea’s goals and he could have had a hattrick had it not been for Danny Ward’s leg. The former Manchester City player arrived for a fee of £47.5m and desperately needed to get off the mark, he did so with a wonderful top right corner finish and it was an easy classic Sterling finish from a Reece James delivery. xG favoured Leicester City and now they sit at the bottom of the league but there is a lot of time to catch up for Brendan Rodgers’ men.
As for Southampton, head coach Ralph Hasenhüttl was a very dejected man post that final whistle against Manchester United but his young side showed a lot of promise. They made United dig deep to secure the maximum points.
Where and When?
Venue: St. Mary’s Stadium.
Date: Tuesday, 30th August 2022.
Time: 19:45 BST.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett.
Fourth Official: Graham Scott.
VAR: Andre Marriner.
Assistant VAR: Ian Hussin.
Hassenhutl has a full squad to select from with no significant injuries to any first-team members except for former Chelsea academy player Tino Livramento who’s still recovering following his surgery for an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his left knee during Saints’ 2-2 draw with Brighton at the Amex Stadium in April. Bella-Kotchap looked a bit uncomfortable following some issues with his knee but he managed to complete the rest of the game.
As for Chelsea, Conor Gallagher’s tough start to life as a full Chelsea professional became more difficult after he was sent off for a second offence on Harvey Barnes. The midfielder looked decent before committing two errors one of which left-back Marc Cucurella should be partially held responsible for a sloppy pass. Thomas Tuchel who served his one-match ban on the touchline for actions in the Spurs’ game said, “You can’t make the [second] challenge if you have a yellow card after 20 or 25 minutes. The challenge was a clear yellow card which gave us a huge disadvantage. There was no reason to make this decision [from Gallagher].”
It meant the Blues had to finish the second game in a row with 10 men after Koulibaly was sent off against Leeds United but they managed to dig themselves out of this one.
Wesley Fofana is all but done with only a formal announcement left for the French defender’s world record £75m confirmed by him in a response to a tweet by Gary Lineker.
— LAWESTT (@Wesley_Fofanaa) August 27, 2022
Fabrizio Romano has confirmed that he will undergo a medical on Sunday and then all formalities for his move will be completed.
Mateo Kovacic got some crucial minutes under his belt coming on for on-field captain Jorginho to help his side see out the last 15 minutes of the game.
This would be another tough test for Ralph. The Austrian coach has had a tough time in the dugout this season and there are multiple reports that he has fallen out with several players and his team was surprised that the manager was allowed to continue in these tough times. After a game against Spurs, an insider revealed to Daily Mail that, “Ralph just doesn’t really talk to people any more. He drops players without any real thought and has no relationship with them if they have an issue. There is a real defensive focus and they’re going into games just trying not to lose. Players are used out of position and there is no consistency — a lot of them are very unhappy. When they sacked the coaching staff, there was a feeling it should have been Ralph who went. The club says they have full faith in him, but it looks like he knows the game is nearly up.”
With Serbian billionaire Dragan Solak leading a £200million takeover, it was expected that they would invest and refresh the squad and they did do so by spending £50 million on six new players this summer — focusing on younger players with sell-on values.
Ralph has generally tinkered with a 3-4-3, 3-5-2, and 4-2-3-1 compared to a 4-2-2-2 he famously deployed at Leipzig and previous seasons at St. Mary’s Stadium. The challenge faced by Chelsea will be a bit similar to the one at Leeds where the South Coast teams like to run like there is no tomorrow. The Blues will have to be ready for an exhausting fixture as the Saints will try to press and will rely on direct, vertical passes on turnovers to create chances within ten seconds of winning possession back. There will be a lot of physical play with Soton relying on tactical fouls for any opponent to move with their game plan.
Chelsea should be able to deal with a lot of crosses that get thrown into the box from The Saints with big and physical defenders like Kalidou and Silva always ready to deal with any issues. Known for not having too much possession throughout the game, (averaging 48.075% possession per Premier League game since Hasenhüttl’s arrival), Chelsea should control the flow and tempo of the game and whether their dysfunctional attack manages to make the best of it remains to be seen.
Players To Watch For
Chelsea’s player of the season is undergoing a rough patch at the moment. He was hooked off at halftime for captain Azpilicueta against Leicester but one can understand that it was a tactical switch to cover Chelsea’s backline after losing Gallagher within 25 minutes of the game. Mount had a decent game when his side lost to Leeds creating 4 chances for his teammates and making three defensive actions in the game in 75 minutes of action. But there seems to be a loss of confidence in him with no goals and assists to show for in four matches.
It would be okay for other players to make slow starts in the league but a player of Mount’s qualities can and should do more. Mount needs to improve on his ability to shoot the ball. He takes about 2.6 shots per match but just has 0.4xG for the entirety of the season. That means he needs to find better areas to attempt on the goal rather than try to hit a worldie every other time.
After a tricky start, Gavin Bazunu is finally finding his feet in the Premier League. Bazunu was at rivals’ Portsmouth last season competing in the third tier of English football on loan from Manchester City. He joined the Saints on a five-year contract for a reported £12m. Already a full-fledged international for the Republic of Ireland, Gavin is great with his feet making more passes (1630) and recording more successful passes (985) than any other keeper in League One last season.
Joe Shields, who took up the position of Head of Academy Recruitment and Talent Management was previously employed by Manchester City. He is responsible for bringing in the likes of Phil Foden and has managed to steal away Bazunu from the Citizens.
Bazunu was so amazing that had the Saints not lost the game against United, he would have received a standing ovation from the crowd. He and his defence were responsible for some spectacular displays against the Red Devils and they made them work for their win. Hopefully, there’s more to come from him!
Southampton predicted XI vs Chelsea: Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Bella-Kotchap, Salisu, Djenepo; Ward-Prowse, Lavia; A.Armstrong, Aribo, Elyououssi; Adams.
Chelsea predicted XI vs Southampton: Mendy; Chalobah, Silva; Koulibaly; James, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Cucurella; Mount, Sterling; Havertz.