A brace from Eden Hazard was more than enough to get Chelsea back into winning ways as they defeated West Bromwich Albion 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
Chelsea’s number 10 opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a quick give-and-go with Olivier Giroud, who made his first start for his new club. Victor Moses scored the second for the Blues in the 63rd minute, after he was left unmarked by two defenders.
Hazard put the final nail in the coffin with a left-footed thumper from the edge of the box in the 71st minute.
Chelsea regain their fourth-place spot in the Premier League table, in front of the Stamford Bridge faithful who sang Antonio Conte’s name in the first minute. The home crowd gave their support to the Chelsea manager, and the players backed him up after a convincing win over West Brom who remain in last place.
Here are five things we learned from Chelsea’s win over West Brom.
Perfect bounce back for Blues
A week between matches—and a three-day break from training requested by Gary Cahill—revitalized this Chelsea squad going into today’s game against West Brom.
The match against the Baggies was a recipe for poetic disaster. Chelsea were sputtering in their last two games. Past West Brom games also led to the firings of former Chelsea managers André Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo. If Chelsea were to struggle once more, the visitors could’ve spelled the end of Conte’s tenure in West London.
Then again, this isn’t the Chelsea side from five-and-a-half years ago, and the Baggies are different too. Despite recent setbacks, the Blues are still fighting near the top of the table, and West Brom find themselves in last place.
A Chelsea collapse at Stamford Bridge would have been a storybook ending for neutrals who want to watch the world burn. Snap back to reality. Hell didn’t freeze over, and pigs aren’t flying. Chelsea comfortably beat a bottom-table club. All is normal once again.
Frenchman fixing the forwards
Olivier Giroud made his first start with Chelsea, finishing the game with an assist to his name before making way for Álvaro Morata in the 60th minute. His inclusion in the starting XI was the key to Chelsea’s overall strong play, and his positioning was vital in Hazard’s first goal.
Since Morata went down with a back injury and Michy Batshuayi left on loan to Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea were left without a striker. Hazard was counted on to play the position and be the focal point of the attack. It left the Blues with an impotent attack as the Belgian didn’t play in his natural role. Despite having great balance, Hazard is not suited to hold-up play in the box due to his smaller stature.
Including Giroud in the lineup meant there would actually be someone in the box ready to receive a pass. For so long, Chelsea would pass around the box, looking for the perfect chance that never came. With Giroud, Chelsea can get into more dangerous areas to take high-percentage shots.
In the first half alone, Chelsea had nine shots inside the box, with one of them being Hazard’s goal. I doubt that goal would’ve happened if Giroud wasn’t in the game.
Clean sheet Christensen
Andreas Christensen made his return since injuring his hamstring in the Bournemouth match at the end of January. It wasn’t too long ago, but two devastating losses made his comeback a priority.
In the two matches since he pulled up, Chelsea conceded seven goals to Bournemouth and Watford. Cahill and David Luiz, despite being important Chelsea defenders of the past, lead to a leakage of goals. Stamford Bridge desperately needed their defensive stalwart back in the middle in front of Thibaut Courtois.
The Chelsea defence gave up only one shot on target on Monday, and Christensen had six clearances to his name while completing 95% of his passes. The back line looked less panicked than in the two games prior to West Brom. It could have been a lesser quality of attack from the Baggies, but credit has to also be given to Christensen for solidifying the defence.
Feeling sorry for Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge had been labelled as a talent to look out for since his debut. It’s crazy to think that he scored his first professional goal for Manchester City a decade ago.
He always played as if he had a chip on his shoulder. He had to prove he was the best. He had to play alongside Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres in his Chelsea days, and a plethora of attackers at Liverpool. Before the emergence of Harry Kane or Jamie Vardy, Sturridge was England’s future forward with a lot of potential.
Injuries have plagued the striker throughout his career, causing him to stay at that point where he still has to live up to his potential at 28-years-old. He’s shown flashes of brilliance in his limited time on the pitch, and this loan to West Brom was supposed to be his resurgence into form.
To see him fall in the third minute to a hamstring injury—in only his third appearance with his new club—is heartbreaking to say the least. It only leaves questions of “What could’ve been?”
Now at 19 injuries in his career, he may be running out of time to answer that question.
Pay the man anything he wants, Roman
Chelsea wouldn’t be where they are without Hazard roaming up and down the pitch. People say not a single player or manager is bigger than the club, but the Blues wouldn’t be able to compete as well without the Belgian superstar.
A long-term contract with Chelsea for Hazard needs to be secured as soon as possible. While there are no doubts that he loves this club, nobody wants to see him go the way of Alexis Sánchez leaving Arsenal.
Hazard is irreplaceable at this moment. If Chelsea want to make any commitment to competing, they need Hazard to wear the blue of West London until he retires.