Chelsea were terrible for most of the Southampton match. Then a double sub and a formation change by Antonio Conte turned things around quickly. Chelsea, no longer the current champions, looked like a team that wore the crown. Before the Blues face Southampton again, they must go back to where the season began. Burnley beat Chelsea in the opener and Conte will be eager to have his revenge for that disastrous defeat that set so much in motion.
GKTHIBAUT COURTOIS13, Belgium
It has been a long time since anyone said “if it were not for Courtois, it would have been worse”. Indeed, the Belgian made several key saves that stopped Chelsea from losing by an embarrassing margin and stopped them from giving up the lead. This is the Courtois everyone wants to see. The Belgian will need to continue like this if he wants to continue to play all sides come the summer.
CBANTONIO RUDIGER2, Germany
Conte was well within his rights to drop Rudiger for the implications of his comments. Rudiger has since bowed down a bit and kissed the ring. His exile will be a short one but will teach the defender a valuable lesson in the club’s trying time. It is easy to forget that Rudgier is young and in a new country. Mistakes will be made but it is important to correct them. He paid his dues and will be back right away.
CBANDREAS CHRISTENSEN27, Denmark
Christensen’s rest appears to have set him back on the right path. Neither of Southampton’s goals could fall too directly on his shoulders and for the most part he looked back to his pre Barcelona form. Conte will likely fear overplaying him still but Cesar Azpilicueta is in much greater need of a day off than the Dane. Christensen will also have to get used to playing these awkward matches because they never go away for a player of his talent.
CBGARY CAHILL24, England
Cahill’s days as a starter at Chelsea are over. He has still been good but it is clear that he is not going to make it into the starting lineup against big teams if everyone is fit. He is the guy on the bench that is good but not good enough anymore. Whether Cahill is ok with that role or not is another question but he will get his opportunities through rotation for now. Azpilcueta needs a rest and Conte is likely to give him one while Cahill is ready and Rudiger is hungry.
WBVICTOR MOSES15, Nigeria
Chelsea have two right wing backs that are opposites of each other in every way but form now. Davide Zappacosta is a natural right back that is the more offensive option for wingback. Moses is the natural right winger that is the more defensive option. And both are the weak spots in Chelsea’s lineup. Zappacosta looked better than Moses so he will be rotated out ahead of a start against Southampton in the FA Cup.
CMN’GOLO KANTE7, France
Kante is the one player that will be a certainty in the XI for the rest of the season. Even Kante needs a day off but the remaining matches are far enough apart that his endless supply of energy will last. That is good because it also offers an opportunity to test out partners in the midfield with him. Conte may be more likely to go than to stay but he will still plan for next season like the professional that he is. And finding Kante’s partner is a big need for the future.
CMTIEMOUE BAKAYOKO14, France
Conte will look at Burnley’s tactics and determine that he needs some steel in the midfield. Cesc Fabregas is not that so he will get a day off before Southampton. Enter Bakayoko who has yet to reestablish himself after his horrid start to the year. Burnley will be an excellent chance for the Frenchman to show his talent on and off the ball. It will not be easy but Bakayoko must rise to the challenge.
WBEMERSON PALMIERI33, Italy
Conte has had few chances to use Palmieri. For some of the few he has had, Alonso was in undroppable form. Alonso is not quite as hot as he was and could be banned for the match anyways. So Palmieri will finally get his chance to show why Chelsea bought him. He will also get to show Roma that he has recovered and they may regret letting him go.
RWPEDRO 11, Spain
Good form has its drawbacks. Namely, the manager cannot drop the player easily. That is a large part of why Willian looks so burnout now and why his form is dropping as a result. Playing him in too many matches would be less than ideal so Conte will look to build on Pedro’s good sub appearance against Southampton. Hopefully, like Cahill, Pedro will have a strong performance after so much time on the sideline.
STALVARO MORATA9, Spain
Morata tried his best to crack Southampton open. But his teammates offered little and did even less with what he gave back to them. Olivier Giroud came on and scored a brace but the like for like switch was not the difference maker against Southampton. The formation switch changed everything and allowed Giroud to flourish. Still, Giroud is a valuable player and Conte will use him as part of a psychological battle against Southampton in the FA Cup.
LWEDEN HAZARD10, Belgium
Hazard and Willian used most of the Southampton match to show why Chelsea are not ready for a manager like Luis Enrique or Maurizio Sarri. The two tried to play a fast tika-taka style that just resulted in embarrassing giveaways. Hazard was miles better after the formation switch because it relied less on fancy flicks and more on finding the space and reading the game. Hazard is still a special player and he is at his best when he is playing for the team instead of the highlight.