December marches on as Chelsea host The Saints of Southampton. Much like last season, but under new management, Southampton struggle to score. Chelsea, meanwhile, struggle to keep clean sheets. So the match will likely be a battle of who caves to narrative first.
Southampton’s recent match with Arsenal showed they have fight, so Antonio Conte will need to be prepared to ensure Chelsea leave the Bridge without any embarrassment.
THIBAUT COURTOIS13, Belgium
Once again, Courtois had a great game. And once again, the defense let him down. This time it was with the last kick of the game as Antonio Rudiger failed to win the header. The Belgian will get tired of his defense ruining clean sheets and that will do little to keep him at Chelsea. Those sporting reasons mixed with his own personal situation may see him leave sooner rather than later if the defense cannot keep their focus for a full match.
CESAR AZPILICUETA28, Spain
There really is no need to justify starting Azpilicueta. Even with his dip in form at the start of the season, he is still one of the first names on the team sheet. The small tweaks that Conte has made has allowed him to push wide and higher more often, something that will be useful if the manager ever decides to revert to a back four. That seems unlikely at the moment, but Azpilicueta will have a role regardless of what shape Conte fields.
ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN27, Denmark
Christensen had to bounce back after the West Ham match and he did so superbly. He was back to near perfection. He also got a late game sub again, this time for the young Welshman Ethan Ampadu. Ampadu plays as the center of the back three for the youth team, but has only been seen in midfield for the first team. One terrible clearance aside, he did well with his time. With David Luiz’s future up in the air, Ampadu is now Christensen’s closest competition.
GARY CAHILL24, England
3-5-2 has become the go-to formation, even against weaker teams. The 3-4-3 used against Huddersfield was likely more in the name of rotation than any sort of trend. So because 3-5-2 is Cahill’s territory, he will start again. He has quietly put together a great season and Rudiger has not quite pried the start away from him. That may come in time, but for now Cahill is running hot and looks comfortable in his role.
VICTOR MOSES15, Nigeria
The strangest thing about the match day squad for Huddersfield was that Davide Zappacosta was nowhere to be seen. There has been no reported injury or fall out. He may have been one of the players Conte had said were tired. But to be dropped from the 18 entirely is surprising. Because of that, Moses is sure to start. If Zappacosta fails to make the bench again, questions must be asked as to what exactly is going on.
CESC FABREGAS4, Spain
One of the reasons the 3-5-2 may be preferred this season is because Fabregas is offering more than Pedro or Willian. The formation does not bring out the best in the Spaniard, but it does give him the best platform to succeed. The tradeoff is the defensive nature of the formation and the increased weight it puts on players like Fabregas to have a good performance. Fabregas has delivered for the most part and will need to continue to if the 3-5-2 is here to stay.
N’GOLO KANTE7, France
Kante got a sub against Huddersfield, offering him some rest time. That means he will now be recharged enough to play every game for another two months. He was still somewhat conservative against Huddersfield, allowing Tiemoue Bakayoko to do the heavy attack lifting. But he also had more freedom in going forward. Kante can be used best when used both ways and the trend towards keeping him as an anchor has held the squad back in recent weeks.
DANNY DRINKWATER6, England
Without the safety net of an additional midfielder, Bakayoko was much more aware of his movement and his dribbles. This made his performance return to what it was at the start of the season and may indicate that the 3-4-3 is a better fit for him. Meanwhile, Drinkwater came on and tried to take everything first time with mixed success. Drinkwater did well in the 3-5-2, so both he and Bakayoko may have found the roles in different formations.
MARCOS ALONSO3, Spain
The Alex Sandro rumors are heating up once more and it is time for Alonso to do the same. The Spaniard receives a lot of criticism, mostly unwarranted, which is the source of a push for Sandro. But the truth is that Chelsea does not need a new player to usurp Alonso, just a deputy of solid quality that can step in as needed. Alonso has been incredibly solid for the club and they should not pursue a £70+ million transfer to make him depth.
ALVARO MORATA9, Spain
Morata missed the Huddersfield clash through injury, but if he is fit he will start against Southampton. If he is not, then the most likely player to step in should be Michy Batshuayi. But Conte strangely chose not to play the Belgian and instead went with Hazard as a false nine. If Morata misses again, Conte may choose the same formation 3-4-3 over the 3-5-2. Batshuayi has to start against Bournemouth, but if he does not, questions will be asked about his future.
EDEN HAZARD10, Belgium
In most matches, Hazard starts well before fading into the background in the second half. He did the opposite against Huddersfield by starting as a passenger before growing into the game and earning Man of the Match (which he promptly gave to Willian). He also started in a false nine role over a true striker, a hint that the club may be overly reliant on him. The good news is he will get a rest during the EFL Cup, but the bad news is that it may be his last for a while.
Would you stick with the 3-4-3 and perhaps rotate a bit more, or is the 3-5-2 the way to go with Alvaro Morata available? Let us know below!