Our first midweek game of the season has arrived as August draws to a close. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton have set their sights on the team’s journey south…
Chelsea are aiming for three wins from the first five matches as this compressed first half of the season suddenly intensifies. The Londoners passed a great test of character on Saturday, playing with 10 men for over an hour and winning – unlike the collapse at Leeds a week earlier. Morale should be lifted by that three-point claim, as well as key summer signing Raheem Sterling scoring his first two goals.
Southampton have often proved a safe haven for the Blues, who have scored on each of the last 17 occasions we have docked at the Hampshire port in the league. It is the longest goal streak a team has had on another team’s soil in Premier League history.
As a result, the Saints have scored 44 home goals against the Londoners in that span, the most against any of their opponents. Likewise, only on Tottenham’s various grounds have Chelsea found the net more times: 51.
Thomas Tuchel returns to the touchline after serving his one-game ban knowing victory could propel the Blues into the top four ahead of West Ham’s visit to SW6 on Saturday, now scheduled for 3pm.
Chelsea team news
Saturday’s hard-fought triumph lifted Chelsea to sixth place. Sterling’s second, a point-blank dispatch from Reece James’ irresistible cross, was a move made in west London that you want to see executed again and again from muscle memory.
The former City man has scored seven goals and set up four against the hosts tonight, and the Blues need to put more aside to simplify games and get out of the current negative goal difference. Of the regular front three, the winner of Saturday’s game has so far been on target with 22.2% of his shots, Mason Mount 28.6 and Kai Havertz 40. Armando Broja, who was Southampton’s second top scorer in loaned to St Mary’s last season, has cracked a shot so far this term, but with 100% accuracy.
Until it was reduced to 10 players on Saturday by Conor Gallagher’s yellow second, Thomas Tuchel’s side lined up in a 4-4-2. After that, the defense reverted to a central three, with James and Thiago Silva notably performing exceptional blocks and interceptions under intense pressure from Leicester.
The Bavarian was reportedly delighted his side faced 16 Foxes corners without conceding any, but feared Gallagher’s second offense was down to a sloppiness after one of six awarded to the hosts. The decision-making in such settings is not there yet, as new players get used to their teammates.
Tuchel has confirmed Kali Koulibaly will start after the suspension, but we’re waiting to see how he handles 37-year-old Thiago Silva as games arrive every three days. The midfielder remains problematic as N’Golo Kante is still weeks away from a comeback and Mateo Kovacic might not be invited to start games until he is 100% fit, despite Gallagher’s enforced absence. Recent signing Carney Chukwuemeka is also on Tuchel’s mind.
A clean sheet for the Blues tonight would be the 50th since arriving at Bridge for Tuchel and goalkeeper Edou Mendy.
Our Hampshire Hosts
Southampton have responded to adversity this season, coming back from losing positions to earn points against Leeds and at Leicester. That doesn’t change the fact that the 13th-placed club have conceded the opening goal in three of their four league games.
Specifically, six of the eight goals scored against them came in the 18 minutes immediately following the break. “Maybe we should stay in the locker room longer,” joked Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Equally disconcerting for the head coach, James Ward-Prowse’s opening goal in the 4-1 loss at Tottenham is the Saints’ only goal in the opening hour of their last five games. They have managed two league wins in the last 16 attempts, one of which (Arsenal) at home.
Hasenhuttl has instructed his side to use the reverse gear more against Chelsea – 6-0 winners at St Mary’s in April – and, with regular centre-back Jan Bednarek seemingly on the way, the Austrian says Armel Bella-Kotchap and Mohammed Salisu look more comfortable in a back four than a three.
This allows him to have an extra striker on the pitch, and the Saints are always eager to overload their opponents in the final third to support Che Adams or new man Sekou Mara. However, that urge to engage bodies forward means a clever threaded pass can leave their young centre-backs isolated and exposed.
Chelsea’s starting line-up against Leicester featured six English players for the first time in the Premier League since Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker and John Terry entered the pitch at home against Blackburn in October 2004 .
Aside from Raheem Sterling, all of those named on Saturday (Trevoh Chalobah, Conor Gallagher, Reece James, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount) are Cobham graduates, down from just one (Terry) 18 years ago.
Number of cards
Throughout the 2021/22 Premier League campaign, Chelsea staff and players have received one red card and no second yellows. After four matches of the new term, the Blues have been hit by two yellow second reds (already the most since 2017/18) and a direct red for the head coach.
So far, only one other club – Liverpool – have seen a player sent off.
“We can’t behave like this if we have yellow cards,” said Thomas Tuchel after the latest dismissal, while making it clear that this is a problem for the whole team. The Londoners last received red cards in successive league matches in October 2014: Cesar Azpilicueta (against Crystal Palace) and Branislav Ivanovic (Manchester Utd).
Koulibaly and Gallagher are not the first players to see red in the first games of their Chelsea careers and will not be the last. Dennis Wise was sent off 11 minutes after his second appearance in royal blue in August 1990 – and look what a legend he has become.
The red cards of the Blues
right red second yellow
2022/23 0 2
2021/22 1 0
2020/21 2 1
2019/20 0 0
2018/19 0 0
2017/18 1 3
2016/17 0 0
2015/16 2 3
2014/15 3 1
2013/14 0 3
Previous pilgrimages to Sainte-Marie
Just four months ago, Chelsea traveled to the south coast and equaled our biggest away win of the Premier League era with half a dozen goals shared between Marcos Alonso, Kai Havertz and two each for Timo Werner and Portsmouth-born Mason Mount.
In fact, the Blues have lost just once in 14 league visits to the Saints since 2001, scoring two or more goals in nine of our 10 wins there.
The Blues’ biggest Premier League wins on the road
2021/22 Southampton 6-0
2010/11 Wigan 6-0
1996/97 Barnsley 6-0
2014/15 Swansea 5-0
2009/10 Portsmouth 5-0
2008/09 Middlesbrough 5-0
2003/04 Wolves 5-0
2011/12 Bolton 5-1
2019/20 Wolves 5-2
Premier League Matchday 5 schedule
(all games on BT Sport)
Crystal Palace v Brentford 7:30 p.m.
Fulham v Brighton 7.30pm
Southampton-Chelsea 7:45 p.m.
Leeds v Everton 8pm
Arsenal – Aston Villa 7:30 p.m.
Bournemouth v Wolves 7.30pm
Manchester City – Nottingham Forest 7:30 p.m.
West Ham – Tottenham 7:45 p.m.
Liverpool-Newcastle 8 p.m.
Leicester v Man Utd 8pm
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