Chelsea returned to winning ways against already relegated Norwich City, but it was by no means a vintage display from Frank Lampard’s side.
The Blues came into the game with the opportunity to further extend their lead over Leicester City and Manchester United, and Olivier Giroud’s goal on the stroke of half-time ensured they took full advantage of the slip-ups of those two rivals.
A toothless performance against Sheffield United at the weekend had left Chelsea’s top-four hopes hanging by a thread but having seen their rivals fail to capitalise, they knew a win would put them back in pole position to secure Champions League football.
Turgid possession play epitomised a game of few chances and despite collecting all three points, Lampard will be acutely aware of the fact that his side cannot perform in such a manner going forward.
Christian Pulisic was far from his best, but ultimately it was his delicate cross to the back post that allowed Giroud to head home. The pair then tried in vain to make the game safe but were unable to find their rhythm.
Here’s how we rated the Chelsea players in the game.
Kepa Arrizabalaga - 6
Had nothing to do and will probably be glad to have been out of the firing line for one game at least!
Cesar Azpilicueta - 7
Picked up some dangerous positions and delivered his crosses with pace and accuracy. Got forward in support of his teammates and rarely looked troubled when Norwich tried to counter.
Antonio Rudiger - 7
A much-improved performance, albeit against inferior opposition. Made some crucial interventions to break up Norwich’s few forrays forward. He also looked to spread the ball quickly with his customary cross-field switches.
Kurt Zouma - 6
Tried to play out from the back with incision but lacked the accuracy to help build Chelsea’s tempo.
Marcos Alonso - 6
Whilst his crosses often landed in dangerous areas, Alonso was guilty of releasing the ball too early and therefore failing to find his teammates’ staggered runs.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek - 5
Dropped into the channels and stretched the play well in the opening exchanges, but a few heavy tackles from the Norwich midfield stunted his progress and he was withdrawn early in the second half.
Jorginho - 5
Having been given a rare opportunity to perhaps salvage his Chelsea career, Jorginho has been underwhelming, to say the least. He struggled to defend against Sheffield United’s overloads at the weekend and then against Norwich, with little to no pressure on the ball, he failed to dictate the tempo as he would’ve desired.
Mateo Kovacic - 6
Made a few desperate lunges to win back possession as his typically languid style of play gave way for a more rash and untidy attempt to regain control.
Willian - 5
The Brazilian looks like he needs a well-deserved rest and with Callum Hudson-Odoi waiting in the wings, it seems like the only sensible decision. Even as the game became stretched, he was unable to stride forward with any real purpose on the break.
Olivier Giroud - 7.5
He struggled to find his range despite scoring the only goal of the game. The Frenchman spurned a host of chances to extend Chelsea’s lead, however, it was his contribution that proved vital in the end.
Christian Pulisic - 7
Having shown glimpses of his ability in the first-half, Pulisic then dug out a wonderful cross for Giroud to nod home. Unlike his teammate, Pulisic’s failure to add to the scoreline came down to some heroic goalkeeping from Tim Krul rather than his own poor technique.
Ross Barkley – 7: Provided an injection of pace and energy to Chelsea’s play. His quick interchanges helped build pressure. The only thing that was lacking was an end product.
Reece James – 6: Whipped in some fantastic crosses that went unchallenged. His runs in behind allowed Giroud to attack the six-yard box.
Callum Hudson-Odoi – 5: Failed to find his feet as he dropped deep to pick up possession. Perhaps needs a spell out on loan before he can be entrusted with a regular starting berth.
Tammy Abraham – 5: With the game winding down Abraham found chances hard to come by.