Chelsea options put on a largely unconvincing performance in their audition for Blank Gameweek 31 investment.
Despite dominating the shot count against Wolves on Sunday afternoon, they were forced to rescue a late point in dramatic fashion.
With the Blues travelling to Everton next weekend, Fantasy managers will be keen to invest but it’s hard to pick out any options offering acceptable form.
We’ve assessed their best options and how they got on against Wolves in Gameweek 30…
Chelsea 1-1 Wolves
Goals: Eden Hazard (£10.9m) | Raúl Jiménez (£6.8m)
Assists: Willian (£7.1m) | Diogo Jota (£6.1m)
Eden Hazard‘s (£10.9m) dramatic equalising goal was his first scored against a team outside the Premier League relegation zone since Gameweek 19. That is the sort of concerning form the Belgian is in ahead of Blank Gameweek 31, for which he has already been signed by 50,000+ managers. While Hazard was the saviour for Chelsea, his performance against Wolves did not especially inspire confidence in him for Sunday’s trip to Everton.
No player had more touches inside the penalty box at Stamford Bridge in Gameweek 30 than Hazard, but he did not register a single shot there. In fact, his late equaliser was his only effort of the match. Furthermore, two of his colleagues created more chances than him, although none of his colleagues has played as many key passes in the last four Gameweeks. Crucially, all his toils against Wolves made for an expected goals (xG) score of just 0.02.
“Hazard is a great player who can solve the situation in any moment, but during the match, he was like the other players. He needs more movement without the ball, not only when he has the ball at his feet. But this is the same for all the players today, especially the offensive players.” – Maurizio Sarri
Gonzalo Higuaín (£9.6m) continues to frustrate those who jumped on his bandwagon as soon as he arrived in the country. As per usual, the Argentinian racked up the shots against Wolves, registering more than double of any other player on the Stamford Bridge pitch, but quality chances were at a premium. Four of his six efforts were inside the box but just two were on target, but most importantly his xG score for being the game’s top shooter was just 0.34.
Over the last four Gameweeks, just four of Higuaín’s 15 efforts have been accurate, suggesting he still has some work to do. So far, he has only scored against Huddersfield and Fulham, the two worst sides in the division, and will be hoping that Everton can be as obliging in Gameweek 31. Much like Hazard, he goes into the depleted round of fixtures offering a little discouragement for those interested in him.
Despite playing 90 minutes against Dynamo Kyiv, and Willian (£7.1m) getting some rest in the final quarter of that match, Pedro (£6.3m) kept his place against Wolves. He was by far the most influential player on the pitch in the Europa League but was unable to recreate that on Sunday afternoon. Like Hazard, he had just one shot which was taken from outside of the penalty box.
With Chelsea chasing the game from the 56th minute, Maurizio Sarri was forced into some changes in the second half. Matteo Kovačić (£5.7m) had been largely anonymous during his time on the pitch and was replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m) for the final 35 minutes of the match. The England international made a decent impact with his drive from midfield and added some goal threat too. Despite his limited pitch-time, only Higuaín finished the afternoon with more shots in the box than Loftus-Cheek, who also created the same number of chances as Hazard did at Stamford Bridge.
The consistency Loftus-Cheek has shown in his rare appearances for Chelsea this season should probably see him start in Blank Gameweek 31, especially with Kovačić and Ross Barkley (£5.1m) offering little in recent weeks. We will have to see how heavily he is involved in Thursday’s Europa League trip to Ukraine first though. Callum Hudson-Odoi (£4.2m) was also added to the fray at Pedro’s expense but was unable to contribute as much as Loftus-Cheek.
“We started (the substitutions) with Loftus-Cheek because, in my opinion, we needed more physical impact in the opposition box. Then Odoi because it was impossible to change our match in that moment of the match, so it was really very important to have a player very able in one against one. Then, in the end, we changed for the first time in the season the system, and played 4-2-3-1 for the last 20 minutes. But it’s not easy, of course, because the problem wasn’t the system, but our way of playing. We need to move the ball faster. We cannot play five or six touches in that situation. It’s very difficult to score if you do.” – Maurizio Sarri
Probably to the encouragement of some, Sarri’s favouring of Jorginho (£4.7m) continued to wane against Wolves. The Italian was substituted around the 70-minute mark for the second Premier League match in a row. According to the manager, this was not because he was necessarily playing poorly but because of the movement of those around Jorginho not helping him play his game. It must be said that the former Napoli midfielder changed some of the perception around him with his performance against Wolves. He has been criticised for playing too many sideways passes this season but was often looking for direct forward balls to Higuaín and Pedro in Gameweek 30, who squandered the opportunities that fell their way. Jorginho was still too slow in the way he distributed the ball but this was a display from Chelsea that demonstrated that he is not the only one to blame for their problems in possession in 2018/19.
“Jorginho, if the other players don’t move without the ball, is in trouble. He is really very able to play at one touch, but if you want to play one touch you need movements from the other players. Then, in the last 20 minutes, Jorginho is not suitable for 4-2-3-1. So it was only a consequence of the change of system, not the performance. I know him very well. He can go in trouble if all the rest of the team are not moving.” – Maurizio Sarri
David Luiz (£5.9m) was back in the side after being benched for Gameweek 29, but it was another match that suggested defence is the wrong area to cover for Chelsea in the Blank Gameweeks. Wolves had just one shot inside the penalty box all afternoon and it found the back of the net. Having failed to keep a clean sheet even against out-of-form Fulham, there has not been much to inspire confidence in Chelsea’s back-line from a Fantasy perspective of late.
Marcos Alonso‘s (£6.4m) stock continues to fall after he was omitted from the matchday squad for the second Premier League match in a row. That is the first time that the Spaniard has missed back-to-back Gameweeks all season, as it appears clear that he has slipped down the pecking order. Sarri has previously explained that when Alonso is not chosen for the starting XI, it makes sense not to include him among the substitutes as left-back is not a position he wants to cover on the bench. Emerson Palmieri (£5.2m) made his second consecutive Premier League start against Wolves and looks very much to be competing for the left-back slot now.
The explanation for Hazard, Higuaín and their colleagues’ struggles in Gameweek 30 may have actually had more to do with Wolves than with Chelsea. The newly-promoted side have been especially impressive when they have played top-six sides this season, beating Spurs and Chelsea earlier in the campaign, and holding both Manchester clubs to draws, and now Sarri’s men on their own patch.
Particularly fond of the big sides is striker Raúl Jiménez (£6.8m) who scored Wolves’ goal at Stamford Bridge. That was his the seventh he has been involved in from nine appearances against top-six opposition this season, scoring four strikes of his own and assisting another three. For all of Chelsea’s efforts on goal, no player managed a higher xG score in the match than Jiménez, converting what proved to be the most clear-cut chance of the afternoon, although it was still an excellent finish to get it past Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.4m).
“It’s different now. They (Jota and Jimenez) have less support, less players in the movement, but Diogo and Raul were able to do a fantastic combination and score a very beautiful goal.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
Despite claims to the contrary by Sarri, Wolves’ defence was very well organised at Stamford Bridge, led by captain Conor Coady (£4.5m), with Willy Boly (£4.6m). This has been a recurring theme of their matches against top-six sides this season, which may hold some hope for those invested in Chelsea attacking options for Blank Gameweek 31. Considering that only Fulham have conceded more shots in the box in the last four home matches as Everton, the Blues are likely to face a more obliging defence next weekend compared to Gameweek 30.
“What I see every day (from Conor Coady) is a fantastic player – a fantastic player and a captain. First-half we were well organised, not allowing many things to Chelsea, who are a very good team and had possession of the ball, but we were closing the gaps and staying compact. We tried to take our chances when we got them.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Emerson, D Luiz, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta; Kovačić (Loftus-Cheek 56′), Jorginho (Willian 72′), Kanté; Hazard, Higuaín, Pedro (Hudson-Odoi 61′).
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI (3-5-2): Patrício; Boly, Coady, Saïss; Jonny, Joao Moutinho, Neves, Dendoncker, Doherty; Jota (Gibbs-White 82′), Jiménez (Traoré 89′).
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