A lack of squad depth was evident in Chelsea’s legged display against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday night, as a four-minute salvo from Nuno Espirito Santo’s men in the second-half was enough to condemn Chelsea to a second successive loss on the road.
Sarri’s rotated midfield controlled the game with Cesc Fabregas playing adeptly in both the offensive and defensive phases of the game, whilst Ruben Loftus-Cheek fortuitously chalked up his third Premier League goal of the season to give Chelsea the lead. Following on from his goal against Fulham at the weekend, the English midfielders’ strike took a heavy deflection off of the head of Connor Coady but found it’s way into the back of the Wolves net. Willian’s free-kick forced a tremendous save from Rui Patricio but aside from two superb last-ditch tackles from Fabregas and Ryan Bennett the first-half lacked any real ebb and flow.
The second half was similarly docile until Wolves began to press Chelsea high up the pitch, forcing the likes of Marcos Alonso and Andreas Christensen into rash decisions and playing into their hands with a more buccaneering counter attacking tempo to the game. Raul Jimenez was the man to make Chelsea pay, collecting the ball from the impressive 18-year-old midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White before firing a powerful shot underneath the body of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea still had plenty of time to muster a response, however, but it was to be Wolves who’d strike next and most crucially as Willian gave up possession easily under pressure from Jao Moutinho, who spread the ball out to Matt Doherty whose square ball found the unmarked Diogo Jota to tap home the winning goal.
Kepa Arrizabalaga - 6
Flapped at a couple of crosses and his positioning not for the first time this season was questionable, letting Jimenez’s shot under his body.
Cesar Azpilicueta - 7
He afforded Ruben Vinagre too much time to cross into the area, but held possession well and was the only player confident in the tackle on top of making eight clearances.
Antonio Rudiger - 6
Despite winning three aerial duels he wasn’t actually very convincing in the air, especially considering the lack of height Wolves possess in their forward line. He was in fairness positioned well to defend balls in behind, staying goal side and mopping up loose possession.
Andreas Christensen - 6
Never looked convincing on the ball, slicing balls into touch. His play became fatigued late on and he subsequently picked up a needless yellow card as his lack of pace became more evident the higher up the pitch Chelsea’s defensive line pushed.
Marcos Alonso - 6
Another really lethargic performance from Alonso, the left-back is certainly in need of a rest. As the clock ticked down he became overly frustrated committing a couple of reckless fouls. Chelsea’s left side was at fault for both goals, and they were torn apart by the introduction of pacy wingers such as Ivan Cavaleiro.
N'Golo Kante - 6.5
He didn’t command himself well enough in possession, taking four unsuccessful touches and just the one tackle. Offensively he also underwhelmed once again, with his typically dynamic running replaced by a more apathetic display covering far less ground than Chelsea’s faithful expect of arguably the best defensive midfielder in Europe.
Cesc Fabregas - 7
Missed a glaring chance to draw Chelsea level, and was one of the few players to actually turn passive play into something more meaningful and direct. His superb tackle on Moutinho in the first-half was potentially the best thing anyone in a blue shirt did all night.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek - 8
Picked up the opening goal and when he got on the ball he was strong and determined, completing three dribbles. His physicality was not limited to just his play on the ball, he dominated in the air as well, winning five aerial duels. Defensively he was also exceptional, with three interceptions and two tackles. Easily the best player on the pitch
Willian - 5
An atrocious performance from the Brazilian, he was weak in giving up possession to Moutinho for the second Wolves goal and had little to show for going forward, sparking little creativity. His well struck free-kick in the first-half his only notable contribution.
Alvaro Morata - 5
Dismal from Morata, barely touched the ball during his time on the pitch, and didn’t drop deep in search of the ball when service was lacking. He had two half chances and was ably dominated by Coady and Willy Boly.
Eden Hazard - 7
Created a hatful of openings that his teammates failed to capitalise on, with six key passes. Although he wasn’t unwilling to take on shots, just one of the Belgian’s five efforts hit the target. His unassuming pass to Loftus-Cheek will go down as an assist but on the balance of play he wasn’t as impressive as the stats suggest.
Pedro – 5, made no impact after coming on, he didn’t look like he was ready to take a hold of the game and alongside Olivier Giorud the pair were unable to offer any attacking impetus.
Olivier Giroud – 5, Chelsea are very much in need of a new striker as it stands, impressive displays against poor opposition in the Europa League is covering for a distinct lack of form.
Mateo Kovacic – 6, it really must be hoped for the sake of players like Loftus-Cheek and the prosperity of the team in general that reports of a permanent deal for Kovacic are inaccurate.