Chelsea had a very warm welcome back to Stamford Bridge on Monday night after winning the Premier League title on Friday at the Hawthorns. The Blues greeted the fans with a 4-3 win over Watford, with another late goal giving Antonio Conte’s men a victory.
The Italian made an unprecedented nine changes to the line-up from the team that faced West Brom at the beginning of the weekend.
Chelsea came out a little nonchalant at the start, but Hornets made it well-known that they weren’t coming to celebrate as they collected two bookings in the opening 11 minutes.
John Terry put the Blues in front first in the 22nd minute after a corner kick fell to his feet in and around the six-yard box.
The football Gods giveth and the football Gods taketh away; and it was proven two minutes after Terry’s opener as the skipper and Nathaniel Chalobah had a miscommunication error and Terry’s header — intended for Asmir Begovic — fell to Etienne Capoue, who headed it over Begovic and into the back of the net.
Cesar Azpilicueta made it 2-1 at half time with a goal in the 36th minutes, prompting a kiss of the badge from the Spaniard.
Michy Batshuayi — the hero on Friday night — put the score at 3-1 four minutes into the second half, but Daryl Janmaat brought Watford’s deficit back down to one just two minutes later.
Stefano Okaka tried to spoil the party, as he equalised in the 74th minute.
Cesc Fabregas came off the bench and bagged the match-winner in the 88th minute. He’s what we learned from the win.
Still work to be done
The win marked the 29th of the season for Chelsea, tying the record for most victories in a Premier League season. Coincidentally, the Blues achieved the mark twice (2004/05 and 2005/06).
Taking three points from Sunderland on Sunday would make Conte’s Chelsea the first side to ever win 30 games in a Premier League campaign.
Captain. Leader. Legend.
Terry’s opening goal marked his 17th consecutive season with a goal in the league. The best defender to ever grace the Premier League.
Don't fret three goals against
Focus on the result here, not how many goals trickled in. If you include the keeper and both wing-back spots, Conte made five of six possible changes, including an inexperienced Kenedy at left wing-back.
Azpilicueta even played right wing-back! Terry and Chalobah’s miscommunication shouldn’t have come as a surprise, nor a number of goals allowed by a back five that hasn’t had a lot of game time.
Nathan Ake needs to stay next season
Conte has said in the past that he likes having two options at each individual centre-back spot.
Assuming the trend stays the same next season — and even if it doesn’t — Ake needs to remain at Stamford Bridge in 2017/18.
The left side flows so well from defence to attack when the left centre-back spot is filled with a left-footed player, and the same was the case on Monday evening.
Ake’s decision-making is much more advanced than what’s expected of a 22-year-old. Even if Ake isn’t seen as a starter next season, he deserves to stick around and should get plenty of looks between four competitions and any potential injuries to the squad.