Chelsea were well and truly outplayed on a night where they succumbed to a 4-1 demolition from London rivals Watford.
Antonio Conte decided to give David Luiz his first start since October, while Eden Hazard was chosen ahead of Olivier Giroud as the Blues’ main attacking threat. Deadline day signing Emerson Palmieri also started on the bench as Davide Zappacosta filled in for the injured Marcos Alonso, who missed his first league game of the season.
The travelling fans expected to see their beloved Chelsea side bounce back from their abysmal 3-0 loss to Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge last week, but they didn’t see that in the opening exchanges. They were possibly lucky to see a handball appeal led by the Watford fans turned down as the ball flicked up onto Gary Cahill’s outstretched hand after just two and a half minutes. They got another let-off inside ten minutes as Hornets skipper Troy Deeney was left unmarked at the back post but completely miscued, much to the enjoyment of the Blues fans.
Tiemoue Bakayoko was quickly becoming the catalyst of an awful first-half performance and in the space of a few seconds, he managed to slow a promising Chelsea counter-attack before falling on Etienne Capoue’s ankle and receiving a yellow card. The Frenchman’s second booking was imminent and came just five minutes later. He was once again caught napping in possession, this time by Richarlison, and was adjudged to have cynically fouled the Brazilian by Mike Dean. The ex-Monaco midfielder was given his marching orders, which was seen as a positive change by a few `Chelsea fans, who chanted something relating the poor quality of his performance.
To make matters worse for the visitors, they conceded a penalty as Gerard Deulofeu was upended in the box by the long arms of Thibaut Courtois. `Deeney, who is something of a master from 12 yards, duly converted the spot kick giving his side a vital lead heading into the interval.
Reprieval for the Blues before more misery
The first 20 minutes of the second-half showed no signs of excitement with the clash of heads between Victor Moses and Marvin Zeegelaar receiving the most attention from fans of both sides. Then, out of absolutely nothing, Chelsea were on level terms with ten minutes left on the clock. Hazard picked the ball up about 25 yards from goal, jinked past a couple of yellow shirts and curled a beautiful effort right into the bottom corner with the help of Orestis Karnezis’ fingertips. With `Giroud on for his debut, Blues fans were hoping he could be the hero for his new club but the contest took a cruel turn.
Just as the Chelsea supporters had finished celebrating their brilliant equaliser, Daryl Janmaat sent the home fans into jubilation. He came inside from the right and burst into the box, exchanging a lovely one-two with Roberto Pereyra, before calmly slotting the ball past Courtois with his weaker left foot. It was a case of “anything you can do, I can do better” from the Dutch full-back. At this point, the champions fell apart and just crumbled under a five-minute onslaught from Javi Gracia’s side.
Hornets new boy Deulofeu was allowed to run the length of the Blues half without being tackled, or even closed down, and broke into the box easier than he ever will again in the top flight. Then his task was simple, made even simpler by the studs of Cahill’s boots as the Spaniard’s low shot deflected into the bottom corner, courtesy of the soles of the Chelsea captain’s feet. The home side weren’t done there and took their final chance to flex their muscles in front of their new boss. Pereyra, who assisted the second goal, joined the goalscoring party with a fantastic finish. Abdoulaye Doucouré slipped the ball through to his Argentine teammate, who feinted to shoot, throwing Cesar Azpilicueta off-guard in the process, before actually shooting and finding the back of the net in style, while Courtois could do nothing but watch it nestle in the far corner.
It could well be the result that puts the icing on the cake for Conte’s time in West London as he is facing an imminent sacking, highlighted by the Hornets fans who sang the old terrace favourite, “You’re getting sacked in the morning”. It will be interesting to see what Roman Abramovic decides but results like that are far from acceptable for a big club like Chelsea. Conceding seven goals in two games against Bournemouth and Watford is unheard of and will undoubtedly be punished in the most severe way.