For a second consecutive week, Chelsea was involved in a back-and-forth thriller. Last week, they defeated Manchester City 2-1, a game that clinched the English Premier League title for Liverpool. This week, they were on the wrong end of the scoreline as they lost 3-2 to 17th place West Ham United.
The match was intense. Midfielder Tomas Soucek tapped in a loose ball that was called back due to VAR in the 34th minute. Minutes later, American star Christian Pulisic forced a penalty and Willian buried it to give Chelsea the lead. However, during first-half stoppage time, Soucek scored the equalizer on a header to draw Chelsea 1-1 at halftime.
In the 50th minute, striker Michail Antonio put in a cross from Jarrod Bowen to give West Ham a 2-1 lead. It would not last as Willian scored on a beautiful free kick that banged in off the post in the 72nd minute to tie the match at two. Chelsea was pushing to take the lead and pick up three points to pass Leicester City for third place in the table. However, it was West Ham that took the three points as Andriy Yarmolenko smashed in the match-winning goal off a counterattack in the 89th minute. West Ham swept Chelsea for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
West Ham only had the ball for one-third of the match, but they took advantage of the possession they had. They were aggressive and creative; a great recipe to beat a superior club as all three goals came off assists. They came into the match tied with Aston Villa for 18th (the final relegation slot) and needed at least a point to separate themselves from the bottom three. Instead, they picked up three points and jumped Watford for 16th place. While West Ham was impressive, the main takeaway from the match was Chelsea’s leaky defense.
Chelsea has had a phenomenal summer thus far. They have signed RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner and Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech for a combined 100 million euros. However, if Chelsea is to truly contend with the clubs at the top, they need to fix their defensive issues. West Ham hadn’t scored a goal in three matches and only had 33% possession in today’s match. Despite this, West Ham dominated Chelsea’s defense for a shocking result.
Chelsea has given up a goal in all three matches since play resumed, a concerning stat considering two of those matches were against bottom-five clubs. They only have two league clean sheets in 2020, which were against Everton and Burnley at home. Chelsea has only one road clean sheet (at Tottenham, Dec. 29th, 2019) and only has six on the season, which is tied for 15th with West Ham.
Chelsea has a great attack as they rank fourth in the Premier League in goals scored, but they cannot rely on a stellar match from their front line to carry them if they are to become true contenders. What I saw today is a backline constantly burned by a club fighting to avoid relegation and it is a problem. Chelsea is looking to spend more money this summer and I recommend fixing the backline instead of bolstering an already strong attack. I would, especially, recommend Leicester City left back Ben Chilwell, a player that can score from his position and defend very well.
Chelsea is an exciting club. With Pulisic and others playing well with further additions arriving soon, Chelsea’s outlook is fantastic. However, Chelsea will not be a factor in the title races for the Champions League and the Premier League if the backline continues to concede goals at the rate they have been doing so this season. Chelsea, today, missed a golden opportunity to pass Leicester for third place in the table and keep pace with Wolverhampton and Manchester United for UCL qualification and the backline was to blame.