Chelsea cannot do anything simple this season. When a good opportunity comes to break out of crisis mode, they slip again.
Bournemouth should have been anything but a blowout by the Cherries. At least the window is shut and the club can focus on the pitch and look forward.
Watford, on terrible form and with a brand new manager, is there for the taking. Chelsea will have to overcome their own demons and build momentum for when Barcelona comes to town.
GK: THIBAUT COURTOIS, Belgium
Courtois could not have had a worse return from injury. His defense left him high and dry.
The Belgian could have done little to keep a clean sheet under such circumstances, but it will be a hit on his professional pride to give up three to Bournemouth.
The defense must sort themselves out before Courtois becomes agitated and loses his pen during contract negotiations.
CESAR AZPILICUETA, Spain
The greatest mistake Azpilicueta made against Bournemouth was treating Gary Cahill the same way he does Andreas Christensen. Cahill does not have the speed to sweep like his Danish counterpart.
But Azpilicueta did not adjust his game for the injury and that put him at partial fault for the first two goals. Still, he came out of the match with the fewest blushes and will continue to start.
DAVID LUIZ, Brazil
Luiz is back in training and is expected to be fit enough for the Watford match. With Andreas Christensen out injured, the Brazilian will need to be ready quickly after another long layoff.
This has not been Luiz’s season at all, and even when fit he has been poor on the pitch. If Conte does not trust Luiz’s fitness (or Luiz in general) he could start Ethan Ampadu in the spot. But he has leaned on experience before and is likely to do so again if he can.
ANTONIO RUDIGER, Germany
Rudiger is having the same type of season as many of the new signings. On some days he looks world class. On others he struggles and shows why he is not a starter yet.
Luckily for the inconsistent German, Cahill has fallen off of form massively in the last two matches. Conte was ruthless in dropping out of form Luiz and will not hesitate on Cahill. It will then be up to Rudiger to lockdown the role in the coming weeks.
VICTOR MOSES, Nigeria
Davide Zappacosta is in poor form again after being handed a start for good form. Re-enter Moses, who has also been in poor form all season.
The board will start to look for the next position to strengthen now that left wingback has been reinforced. Both Moses and Zappacosta have to step up and prove Chelsea have everything they need. All the evidence of the season points to both not being good enough to continue as starters next season.
N’GOLO KANTE, France
Fatigue has made Kante just a bit off. He is still able to win tackles and do amazing things. But it is visible how much he has to work for it now.
Conte seems unwilling to trust a Premier League game to a midfield without Kante. Hopefully, the slightly extended rest between Bournemouth and Watford refreshes the Frenchman. His next earmarked rest is against Hull City, so until then he needs to hold on.
TIEMOUE BAKAYOKO, France
In the 3-4-3, Conte has favored Bakayoko next to Kante to form a solid base to attacks. The problem is overplaying Bakayoko. The midfielder’s form dipped last time due to being played more often than necessary.
The signs of appeared last match as well where he was excellent until the second half. Then mistakes crept into his game, his confidence dissolved, and the goals flowed. Conte will have to handle the situation carefully.
MARCOS ALONSO, Spain
Simple law of averages says the more Alonso has to play, the sooner he will have a bad match. So far he has bucked the rule but he will have to keep testing it until Emerson Palmieri is ready.
That will likely be for the Hull match. Until then, Alonso will have to bear with the fatigue and push on like Kante.
Willian should be back from injury and rotation / injuries force him into the lineup quickly. The biggest concern will be his form. Prior to the injury, he was arguably Chelsea’s most in-form player.
It is unsurprising that Chelsea’s attacks have struggled even more without him. When he returns, Conte will hope that he picks back up where he left off because Chelsea are desperate for attacking flair right now.
EDEN HAZARD, Belgium
Hazard did what he could against Bournemouth but was unable to do the role of a true striker. The false nine system has its place, but it is not at Chelsea. The Blues simply do not have the right players to make it work properly.
The system worked previously in spite of itself but now opposing managers have figured out how to stifle it. Hazard will have to reach into his bag of tricks to pull Chelsea through another match of false nine.
Pedro is on thin ice right now. He is a shadow of himself from last season. He has done little to earn minutes when he is played. And Callum Hudson-Odoi came on against Bournemouth and added more spark in 20 minutes than Pedro has all month.
But Conte favors experience and will give Pedro another chance. That will not last for long, however, as Hudson-Odoi has impressed and could take Pedro’s minutes after a series of strong substitute appearances.