After facing Atletico Madrid in the Champions League this week, Chelsea will simply have to travel across London when they return to Premier League action against West Ham in Saturday’s lunch time fixture.
In recent years, facing West Ham away from home has been a tricky fixture for Chelsea, having lost twice in their last three matches in all competitions, once at the Boleyn Ground in 2015 and in last year’s EFL Cup at the London Stadium.
After slowly adjusting to their new home last season, West Ham’s form at the London Stadium has been okay this season, with the Hammers having recorded 2 wins from their 6 matches at home this season – a far cry from recording no wins in away fixtures.
For West Ham to edge closer to escaping the bottom three, they’re going to have to put in a performance against a Chelsea team who are currently unbeaten in their last seven fixtures in all competitions.
Chelsea will hope their profligacy in front of goal against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night is just a blip. A 1-1 draw was probably a fair result, but the Blues missed numerous scoring chances. While West Ham might not be on the same level as Atletico, their strength on set pieces in particular always give them a chance to nick a result, especially in a tight game.
Can David Moyes find a solution to West Ham’s leaky defence?
Unlike most teams around West Ham at the bottom, the Hammers’ problem isn’t scoring goals. They’re perfectly capable of scoring enough to get them out of the bottom three, but stopping goals from going in their own net is their real issue.
West Ham have conceded 32 goals in the league this season, which is puts them in the lead for most conceded. To be fair, their defensive record at home has been far better than away from home. The Hammers have only conceded 11 goals in 6 matches at home compared to 21 goals in 9 matches away from home.
Part of West Ham’s problem recently is an unsettled defence. Injuries and ineffectiveness saw former manager Slaven Bilic switch back and forth between a back four and a back three, and at times this season, the West Ham defence has looked disorganised and confused.
David Moyes has tinkered himself since taking over, playing a back four against Everton to disastrous results and playing a back three against Manchester City in defeat. Which one he’ll choose Saturday is a bit of a mystery.
Moyes won’t be happy with the way his defence performed against Everton, particularly as they looked short on confidence and sort of capitulated in front of his eyes. But against Manchester City, they regained a measure of pride, putting in a solid defensive performance but simply ran out of energy against a City side that dragged them all over the pitch in the second half.
Chelsea might not have the same dynamism in attack that City possess, but the Blues are a very good side that will punish teams for mistakes. If West Ham play with the same intensity as they did at the Etihad last Sunday, they can make it difficult for Chelsea. If their concentration levels drop, they could be in for a long day.
Chelsea will be happy to not see Andy Carroll, though West Ham have a striker crisis.
For some odd reason, Andy Carroll often manages to have his best games against Chelsea. His aerial prowess over the years has caused the Blues defence and midfield problems.
With Carroll out injured and Javier Hernandez just coming back to full training, West Ham again have a hole up front.
Against Manchester City, Moyes opted to play Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini in tandem up front, but neither of them is really a centre forward, and there were times when West Ham really lacked a player to hold up the ball and release a bit of pressure.
That’s where Carroll’s absence is really felt. His ability to play as a target man gives West Ham an option that they don’t have with any of their other strikers, including Chicharito. Marko Arnautovic is capable of winning headers, but he’s most effective in wide areas and could be forced back depending on Chelsea’s formation.
Against Chelsea, a striker being able to hold the ball up in order to bring other players to support a counter attack is vital to disrupting the back three. Without that type of player, it becomes much more difficult to work the ball forward, especially with N’Golo Kante always lurking in midfield.
Chelsea’s time to build momentum is now if they want to pressure the league leaders Manchester City.
Chelsea’s run of fixtures during the month of December are quite favorable. Including Saturday’s match against West Ham, Chelsea do not face a team currently higher than 10th in the Premier League table and only have to leave London twice – to face Huddersfield on Tuesday night and to face Everton on 23 December.
If the Blues can put together a good winning streak against teams they should be beating, it might just put some pressure on Manchester City who have a more difficult schedule this month.
With the Manchester Derby on Sunday and City still to face Tottenham in the month of December, there is hope that if City drop points, the Blues could at least make up some ground on City’s 11-point lead and perhaps make the league leaders feel some pressure.
It might be a long shot, but Chelsea went on a similar run last through December last season. While the title is still some way off, all the Blues can do is continue to win.
(3-5-2): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Drinkwater, Alonso; Hazard, Morata