A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s trip to face Wolverhampton Wanderers.
With this season’s first international break out of the way, domestic top flight football returns to action this weekend. And Chelsea face the prospect of a trip to the West Midlands as they face Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux.
The Premier League season is only 4 matches in, but The Blues have already shown some indifferent form. Some exciting, entertaining attacking play whilst dominating has been offset by a relatively porous defence.
In the shape of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount, newly appointed manager Frank Lampard has integrated some talented young players in to his otherwise fairly threadbare team.
Also, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Emerson Palmieri have improved since last season after being liberated from the shackles of former manager Maurizio Sarri’s strict tactics.
Add to that Christian Pulisic and Fikayo Tomori who are already showing signs of becoming stalwarts within the first team squad, and there have been plenty of positives about Chelsea’s play so far this term.
However, early leads in matches have been undone by far too regularly. Yes, Chelsea’s captain Cesar Azpilicueta has been targeted by opponents, while Kurt Zouma has been punished for the odd mistake and Kepa Arrizabalaga has had fingers pointed towards him, but I think not enough credit has been given to our opponents and Lady Luck.
The rate of converting chances in to goals against The Blues is at a staggeringly high level. Chelsea have so far needed 68 attempts at goal to register 6 goals, while their 4 opponents have taken just 37 to score 9. Add to that the fact that Frank’s side have hit the woodwork more than any other side so far and there is a clear argument that The Blues have been a little unlucky.
And then came the international break. But this might have been more of a help to Chelsea than any other side in the league. Frank has has to deal with significant absentees due to injuries and the extra rest bite could see that list shrink slightly.
Both Antonio Rudiger and Pedro are now deemed available, while Mateo Kovacic did not suffer a bad enough injury whilst on international duty to rule him out.
However, N’Golo Kante is still not quite ready to return. The French maestro joins Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James who are also unavailable. The good news is the latter 2 both had a run out for the U23s on Friday evening and are not far off returning to the first team.
And going forward, that will be vital for Frank and The Blues. The opening weeks of the season saw Chelsea only play once midweek thanks to having another European trophy shoe horned into their busy cabinet.
This return to action kick starts a very busy spell for The Blues. Their Champions League campaign starts next Tuesday and that is followed by the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup the following week.
With matches coming thick and fast, the bigger the available squad is to Frank, the better positioned we are to enjoy more success. The Blues currently lie in 11th place and have some very tricky league ties upcoming.
The first of which is their trip to Molineux. Wolves have very quickly proven to everyone that they are a quality side capable of mixing it with the best in the country. And after their impressive 7th place finish last season, they are now mixing it in Europe.
That can be a bit of a poisoned chalice though. When adding the extra matches and travelling to an already tough schedule, it can lead to a dip in domestic form. Just ask Burnley from last season.
So manager Nuno Espírito Santo has plenty to deal with. Now add to that the suspension of key defender Wily Boly for Saturday’s encounter and he will need to juggle his pack very cleverly.
In the shape of Rúben Neves, Diogo Jota, João Moutinho, Adama Traoré and especially Raul Jimenez, Wolves are a very dangerous side to play against. Jimenez has already amassed 8 goals for Wolves this season and will be the biggest threat to The Blues, while Traoré is possibly the fastest player in the league and loves to run at opponents.
Wolves have failed to register a Premier League win yet this season, but have won all 8 of their Europa League matches and have qualified for the group stages of the competition.
However, they are unbeaten in The Premier League at home since January, a run of 10 matches. And after beating the Chelsea in the same fixture last season, they will be full of belief.
Chelsea will need to start showing a little more maturity in their match play if they are to move back up towards the higher echelons of the table. The youthfulness has shown plenty of promising signs, but there has also been elements of naivety in their play.
If Frank’s guidance and the steady return of missing key players can minimise the latter, then this will be a tie that all Blues supporters would be venturing into with a lot less trepidation.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue