Chelsea fell to defeat at St Mary’s as they were beaten 2-1 by Southampton. Thomas Tuchel appeared to get his tactics wrong from the start with his team appearing completely unsuited to playing with a four-at-the-back system. The Blues did open the scoring through Raheem Sterling but were quickly pegged back by Romeo Lavia and Adam Armstrong to see the three points remain on the South-Coast.
Here Express Sport takes a look at five things we learned from the game.
Chelsea are not suited to playing with a back four
The Blues were poor during the first 65 minutes of the match where they stuck rigidly to a four-at-the-back formation. The set-up lacked balance with none of Chelsea’s four attacking talents, Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech offering any kind of width.
Tuchel was put in a difficult position after Reece James was ruled out with injury but his squad does not look to have the players to start with a back four due to a lack of out and out wingers. A problem that has been worsened by Callum Hudson-Odoi’s loan move to Bayer Leverkusen.
While the team still looked poor after a triple change to change formation and return to their favoured formation, there was an improvement on how they performed initially.
Southampton’s transfer business has been exemplary
Two of the best players on the park for the home side were summer signings Romeo Lavia and Armel Bella-Kotchap. Both players were signed for relatively low fees with Lavia arriving in an £11million deal from Manchester City and Bella-Kotchap costing £9m from Bundesliga side VFL Bochum.
The midfielder got his side back into the game by smashing home the equaliser from the edge of the box in the 28th minute. The 18-year-old was a constant thorn in the side of Chelsea’s central pairing of Jorginho and Ruben Loftus Cheek before being forced off with injury early in the second half.
Bella-Kotchap was a calm and composed force at the centre of the Southampton defence, typified by his magnificent tackle on Sterling early doors when the Englishman looked set to score. Both players could quite easily fetch the Saints four times the fee they were bought for in the years to come.
Mendy short on form and confidence
Chelsea’s goalkeeper has been so reliable since he joined the club from Rennes in 2020 but has been somewhat off form in recent weeks. His mistake for the first goal in the 3-0 defeat at Leeds has been well documented, but he once again struggled to reach his usual levels of performance against Southampton.
The Senegal international seemed slightly hesitant to collect the from crosses and through balls despite there being little pressure on him. He will also feel he should have done better with Lavia’s equaliser after he got a strong hand to the ball which only served to deflect it into his own net.
Southampton will cause teams constant issues on the counter
For as much as Chelsea were poor, Southampton were excellent. They look particularly dangerous on the counter-attack with Che Adams, Adam Armstrong and Mohamed Elyounoussi an exciting, pacey attacking trio. The Scottish striker is on a particularly rich run of form and was central to the team’s counter attacking efforts, holding up the ball fantastically to bring in his fellow team mates.
Additionally, Armstrong is finally starting to find his feet following his move from Blackburn last summer. The Saints’ No 9 appears to really suit playing of the left, allowing him to break onto the fantastic service provided by James Ward-Prowse.
Broja must start more often
Havertz had another disappointing game in front of goal, fluffing a header over the bar in what was his only real chance of the game. He was replaced by Broja in the 65th minute and the striker instantly looked like an improvement on his return to St Mary’s.
The Albanian gave the Southampton defence something extra to think about and was a nuisance for the centre-halfs to deal with. He forced a good save from Southampton keeper Bazunu which is more than the German can claim to have done.