Manchester City are a class above the rest, so, when they strut into Stamford Bridge on Saturday, it will be the home team, led by Maurizio Sarri, that will be contemplating damage control.
Already 10 points behind the league leaders and morale dropping amongst his players, Sarri cannot afford early Christmas presents to Pep Guardiola’s rampaging team. This can be achieved by leaving three players on the bench.
Sarri has been known to be particularly obdurate in changing his tactics and his starting 11, but, if he wants to give any chance to his team to get a positive result against City, he must reconsider and drop these three players.
Marcos Alonso: Just like Victor Moses, the Spanish left-back was a journeyman of sorts before his transformation under Antonio Conte but one thing Conte’s regime magnified is that this pseudo-defender is more comfortable attacking than defending. In a 3-4-3 formation, that could be overlooked but in a 4-3-3, and David Luiz in behind, Chelsea have suffered countless setbacks down that left flank.
Former Chelsea forward, Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink told Premier League TV that Sarri may need to move Cesar Azpilicueta to plug that outsized hole. He also alluded to the fact of Eden Hazard not expected to commit to defending, which leaves Alonso more exposed. His flaws are exacerbated with a mounting number of fouls committed, just because he cannot commit to defend for long periods.
Not much has been seen of Emerson Palmieri, but how much worse can it get if Sarri must employ a left-footed defender?
Willian: The Brazilian forward was close to the exit with Conte in charge and Barcelona offered good money in the summer, which the Chelsea hierarchy should have accepted. Against Wolves on Wednesday, he showed all his flaws.
He lost balls in deep offensive areas and in defensive areas, not sorting out his foot on time and generally displaying a lack of urgency. By the time he was substituted for Pedro, the game had been lost.
Alvaro Morata: For any team chasing titles or a top-four finish, Morata will not be the No.9 – at least at the moment. The Spaniard’s body language shows one drained of self-confidence – the major currency for strikers. Because he is afraid to miss, he is not attempting or getting in scoring positions as often as he can.
Though Olivier Giroud is not much better in the scoring stakes, the French World Cup winner is not one lacking self-confidence. His movement in and around central defenders and the opposition defensive line may be pedantic but his hold-up play and combination with Hazard is still top notch.
The honeymoon is over for Sarri, and all he needs now is how to weed out the deadwood and still qualify for the UEFA Champions League.