Chelsea’s bid to finish in the Premier League’s top four took a blow on Sunday, as the Blues were held to a 1-1 draw by Wolverhampton Wanderers. Eden Hazard rescued a late point for the Blues.
Raul Jimenez had given Wolves the lead early in the first half. The visitors appeared to be cruising to a win, but Hazard tied things up in the final minutes.
The loss snapped a two-match win streak.
Sarri’s Stubbornness Will Cost Chelsea Top-Four Spot
Chelsea have fallen behind Arsenal and Manchester United in the race for the top four in recent weeks, and after yet another poor showing on Sunday, manager Maurizio Sarri will not be able to escape the blame.
Fans were in for a familiar sight at Stamford Bridge, where the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi had to settle for a spot on the bench while Pedro and Mateo Kovacic started.
Sarri opted for the same 4-3-3 formation he has used all year, with the same focus on the central areas. Jorginho was on the ball constantly, and Wolves were ready for it, marking him, Pedro and Eden Hazard tightly and sagging off every other Blue.
As a result, the hosts barely created chances in the first half, and the home fans started voicing their disapproval early. Per Mark Worrall, the half was a dud, and he expected the Blues’ faithful to start a familiar chant quickly:
Dreadful half of football.
Won't be long before "oh Hudson-Odoi" is being sung.
Chelsea look short of ideas and lacking motivation to really step it up.— Mark Worrall (@gate17marco) 10 марта 2019 г.
Even after such a dreadful half, Sarri did nothing to change things up at the break. It wasn’t until Jimenez gave the visitors the lead when the Italian brought on Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek, and sportswriter Simon Johnson thought the latter should have been in the team from the start:
The Blues also changed their system and immediately started creating more danger. Chelsea writer Nizaar Kinsella couldn’t believe it:
Had they done so sooner, the outcome of the match could have been different.
Sarri’s tactical approach takes time to implement, as we saw at Napoli, and a top-four finish in his first season was perhaps unrealistic. The Blues are still in the thick of the battle, but at this stage, they seem unlikely to finish ahead of United and even Arsenal.
If they fail, Sarri’s unwillingness to make any timely changes will be a major factor. Too often the tactician has been too late with his substitutions, and his reactionary approach cost his team on Sunday.