Blues held to goalless draw by headstrong Southampton as Morata misfires again

Chelsea 0-0 Southampton: So’ton left Stamford Bridge with a well-earned point as blues drop point & fail to close gap on top 3

Yet another low-scoring, low-chance game which highlighted exactly why Chelsea have paid so much for Christian Pulisic.

It is now just 11 goals in 10 games since their first 0-0 of the season, at home to Everton in November, which was incidentally the moment their winning start to the season stopped as they then lost their next match, to Tottenham Hotspur, for a first defeat.

It has felt that, without that initial momentum from pinching wins when they shouldn’t have, Chelsea have come to a stop in other ways, too. They are a team that trudges through games rather than flows through them, in the way that Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli did.

Blues held to goalless draw by headstrong Southampton as Morata misfires again

This wasn’t just about Chelsea of course. Ralph Hasenhuttl claimed his seventh point from his five games so far and first in three, as he also showed the kind of impressive tactical adaptability he has become admired for. Southampton offered up very little.
There were so many moments in this match when Chelsea could have done with Pulisic – or, more pointedly, just something, anything, other than this. It was so much of the same: pass, pass, pass until it feels like life is passing you by, rather than one of their attackers passing you by.

This isn’t completely Sarri’s fault, even if it might reasonably be expected that Chelsea are that bit more rapid now he’s five months in the job. While Sarri has genuinely made a virtue of just coaching whatever players are available to him – and there have been notable improvements or changes in players like Kante, Ross Barkley, David Luiz, Ruben Loftus-Cheek – he can still only do so much with a lop-sided squad. Chelsea are missing that element of extra fantasy, or individual inspiration, beyond Hazard.

Morata was admittedly a bit more lively than usual, but he was still just getting the occasional balls through out of so many balls sideways.

Blues held to goalless draw by headstrong Southampton as Morata misfires again

The only thing that was different about Chelsea was something that was already becoming predictable. David Luiz three times tried the raking ball forward that undid Crystal Palace on Sunday, but Southampton were wise to it.

It was a canny set-up from Hassenuttl all the same. Southampton were nowhere near as constrained as Palace, or as unambitious, but they were unwilling to offer up any space.

They also began to offer more as the game wore on and Chelsea were getting frustrated, as Stuart Armstrong and former Stamford Bridge player Oriol Romeu brought saves from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Blues held to goalless draw by headstrong Southampton as Morata misfires again

Not unsurprisingly, Sarri turned to the bench and one of his few players left on with that bit of craft and creativity. The fact Fabregas’ best days are behind may be one reason why he’s likely off to Monaco – even though the manager likes him as a Jorginho alternative – but there is still some real vision in that mind, and inspiration in those feet.

Just moments into what was his landmark 500th appearance in English football, he fed Morata with a clever ball for the forward to finish… only for the flag to have gone up.

Morata had another opportunity moments later, in one moment when the pitch opened up on the counter and a surging Loftus-Cheek played him in so swiftly… only to tamely hit it at Angus Gunn.

He’s long gone, and so much has changed, but it was precisely the kind of move that Diego Costa used to finish so fluidly. Chelsea have just lost so much zip in that time.

It got to the point in the box in stoppage time when Marcos Alonso was making the most of the minimum of contact, to try and get a penalty. That as the extent of Chelsea’s ideas by then.

They weren’t offering up much else.

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