Chelsea dropped their first points of the season after their 0-0 Premier Leagued draw at West Ham on Sunday.
Chelsea began the game on the front foot and dominated possession for the opening half hour, though they were never able to create a gilt-edged chance. West Ham’s dogged determination kept them in the contest while allowing them the best chance of the first half on the counter-attack when Michail Antonio forced Kepa Arrizabalaga into a sharp stop. Chelsea’s best opening came moments before the break, when Eden Hazard and Willian combined to set up a header from N’Golo Kante that drifted wide.
The second half followed the same pattern, and West Ham really should have taken the lead when Andriy Yarmolenko missed a free header from six yards out. That sparked Chelsea into greater urgency, with Alvaro Morata denied from close range by Lukasz Fabianski’s face before Kante side-footed over a gaping goal. Ross Barkley’s fierce shot from long range was pushed away, and when Willian volleyed wide instead of picking out Morata in injury time, the game was as good as over.
The passing and overall control of the game in the opening stages were impressive and asserted Chelsea’s dominance. Re-gathering themselves for an assault in the last 20 minutes was also encouraging, demonstrating an ability to go through the gears when required.
Some of the decision-making in attacking areas was surprisingly poor, with Hazard being the biggest culprit. Some of the passing was too sloppy to maintain the intensity and allowed West Ham to get a foothold in the contest. Too many straight passes were forced through the middle and were duly cut out. The full-backs were exposed defensively on a few occasions as they were caught upfield, and a better team would have punished Chelsea.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — The patterns of play were impressive, it was just the execution that was lacking, which does not reflect on the manager. Barkley made an impact when he came on, raising the question as to why he was not introduced earlier. Maurizio Sarri is not having the best of luck in his chosen striker, with the substitute invariably outshining the starter.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 7 — Only had one save to make, but did his job as he stood tall to repel a point-blank strike from Antonio.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 — Had a difficult game against the pace of Felipe Anderson in the first half and the power of Antonio in the second. Still adapting to his full-back role.
DF David Luiz, 6 — Made a couple of interceptions, though never looked comfortable and was bailed out by his defensive partner after being turned by Antonio. Gave away a couple of needless fouls.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 — By far the most robust of all Chelsea’s defenders with his power and pace a huge asset to the team. Tried his luck from distance and was unlucky to suffer an injury in the second half that forced his withdrawal.
DF Marcos Alonso, 6 — Not at his best in either aspect of his game, with no real impact in attacking areas and chasing shadows when West Ham countered.
MF Jorginho, 6 — The fulcrum of the team, he pulled the strings in the opening stages before his passing radar began to falter. Some were overly ambitious but others were simple and spoke of a growing frustration within the Chelsea ranks.
MF N’Golo Kante, 7 — Was vital when Chelsea lost possession with his recovery runs helping to thwart West Ham. Missed two excellent chances to break the deadlock.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 6 — Silky smooth in the first half, he fizzled out in the second before being substituted. Always happy to take on his opponent, he is an important component to this team, but needs to make his performances last for 90 minutes.
FW Eden Hazard, 6 — Even though he was still by far the most dangerous player on the pitch, this was a disappointing display by his extraordinary standards. Passed twice when he should have shot, ruining two excellent openings in the process and his poor cross in the last seconds of stoppage summed up his game.
FW Willian, 7 — Flitted in and out of the game but was incisive when the mood took him. Laid two chances on a plate for Kante, though should have either scored or played in Morata when he blazed wide late on.
FW Olivier Giroud, 5 — Didn’t lack for effort but had no impact on the game. Hit fresh air when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the 6-yard box and his fabled understanding with Hazard was absent throughout.
FW Alvaro Morata, 6 — Almost scored with his first chance and his movement was excellent without ever getting the right service.
DF Gary Cahill, 6 — Made his first appearance of the season but was never tested.
MF Ross Barkley, NR — Caught the eye after adding his combination of physicality and grace to midfield.