Chelsea emerge from the slump showing signs of clicking
LEICESTER, England — Chelsea deepened Leicester City’s relegation fears and turned up the heat on Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers with a comfortable 3-1 win at the King Power Stadium in the Premier League on Saturday.
Goals from Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz and Mateo Kovacic – Patson Daka had equalized for Leicester in the first half – sealed Chelsea’s third win in a week to prolong their revival. And with Leicester falling two places above the relegation zone, their day turned from bad when defender Wout Faes was sent off for two yellow cards late in the second half.
1. Chelsea are recovering from their bottom and starting to click
Graham Potter became deeply despondent during his brief tenure as Chelsea manager, but that win at Leicester suggested he and his team could finally emerge from their months-long nightmare. The Blues have now won three games in a week – and qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League – having won just one of their previous 11 games.
The dominance of their victory at the King Power was underscored by the fact that two goals were disallowed for offside against the ailing home team.
With Potter once again using his preferred 3-5-2 formation, Chelsea appeared to be in control from the start and they took the lead in the 11th minute when Chilwell volleyed his former club from the left foot. Leicester reacted well and had their chances to equalize through Daka’s 39th-minute strike, but they regained control when Kai Havertz made it 2-1 with a lob four minutes into first-half injury time.
That goal allowed the visitors to dictate the game even more, and their big-buck signatures began to shine. Loanee Joao Felix was solid in the first half before being substituted at the break and Enzo Fernandez and Mykhailo Mudryk both impressed before Kovacic made it 3-1 in the 78th minute.
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Chelsea were so poor during their woeful midwinter run that Potter appeared to be on loan as manager, but perhaps the board’s patience with the former Brighton & Hove Albion boss is now bearing fruit.
There were clear signs of progress and of a team growing together towards this win. A top four finish looks beyond them but if they can build on their revival a top seven finish and perhaps even a run to the Champions League final could still be in the cards.
2. Rodgers is feeling the heat as Leicester face a relegation battle
Rodgers was chanted ‘We want Rodgers out’ as Leicester suffered their 16th Premier League defeat this season – a defeat that leaves them just a point above their last three. All managers know that only results truly strengthen or weaken their impact on a job, but when followers begin to turn, it usually hastens the beginning of the end.
Rodgers knows this better than most, having been a top manager for more than a decade, but the former Liverpool and Celtic boss has undoubtedly been forced to work at King Power in difficult circumstances in recent seasons. He’s seen star players like Harry Maguire, Kasper Schmeichel and Wesley Fofana all leave without being properly replaced and a lack of signings last summer has led to this season’s struggles.
Despite winning Leicester’s first-ever FA Cup in 2021, Rodgers appears to have run out of credit with fans of the club who now fear relegation to the Championship.
Rodgers said ahead of that game that holding Leicester this season would be one of the greatest accomplishments of his career so he clearly feels he’s been up against that this season. However, Rodgers, who has now been in office for four years, will also know he is running out of time to extend that stay for a fifth year.
3. Maddison crucial to Foxes’ hopes of survival
King Power Stadium held its breath as James Maddison went down after a late tackle by Fernandez in the 58th minute. With the Leicester midfielder clutching his foot in agony, the prospect of a serious injury would have hurt his club’s chances of survival enormously.
In the end, the 26-year-old was able to get back into the action despite the injury that was still plaguing him.
However, Leicester are now in such a dangerous situation at the wrong end of the table that they need Maddison on the pitch, even if he’s not 100 per cent fit. He is by far their best player and the only one capable of creating the chances to score the goals Leicester desperately need to convert.
Against Chelsea it was at times like watching a lead fiddler trying to play with a local band in a garage, with Maddison too often on a different wavelength from his teammates. Despite an injury-plagued season, he has scored nine goals and provided five assists in 19 Premier League games, so his importance to Rodgers’ team is evident.
If Maddison can help keep Leicester going, it will likely be his final contribution for the club as a move to bigger and better things seems only a matter of time for the England player.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Kai Havertz, Chelsea. The Chelsea striker was at his best in the King Power. Great passing and movement but also a goal with a stunning lob to restore his team’s lead.
BEST: James Maddison, Leicester City. Leicester need Maddison to stay fit if they are to avoid relegation. Stands out from the crowd as the best player on the team.
BEST: Enzo Fernandez, Chelsea. The Premier League’s most expensive player is growing into his role at Chelsea, dominating midfield alongside Kovacic. Lucky to avoid a caution for a bad foul on Maddison.
Worst: Harry Souttar, Leicester City. The Leicester defender was lucky to escape a yellow card or worse for a rude late challenge on Mudryk in the second half. Too awkward as a Premier League centre-back.
WORST: Wout Faes, Leicester City. Not only does he look like former Chelsea defender David Luiz, he has the same ruthless defensive attitude as the Brazilian. Sent off for two yellow cards, with his second foul – on Carney Chukwuemeka – worth a red card.
WORST: Ricardo Pereira, Leicester City. Booked for a poor tackle on Fernandez but escaped punishment for an even worse foul on Felix earlier in the game.
Highlights and notable moments
It says something that’s hard to pin down which was more impressive: Fernandez’s ball over the top or Havertz’s first-time lauded finish. Two beautiful displays of technology.
Kai Havertz? Cooler than the other side of the pillow.
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After the game: What the players/coaches said
Potter: “It’s been a really positive week for us. Three wins: a determined win against Leeds, an important win against Dortmund in the Champions League and then a win here away in the Premier League says a lot about the spirit, build togetherness we have at the club.”
Roger: “I found it very hard for the players in the end. … What encourages me a lot is the spirit of the team, they kept fighting, they kept working and I think we were unlucky to lose the way we did. “
Key Statistics (provided by ESPN Stats & Information Research)
– Chelsea have now scored multiple goals in consecutive games for the first time in a five-game span between October 1 and 16.
– Chelsea went on a streak of 24 games without scoring three or more goals in any competition.
Leicester City: The Foxes will travel to west London in a week, where they take on Brentford in a Premier League showdown on Saturday afternoon.
Chelsea: Chelsea will return to the home atmosphere at Stamford Bridge on Saturday when they host Everton in the Premier League.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/english-premier-league/story/4897646/chelsea-emerging-from-slumpshowing-signs-of-clicking Chelsea emerge from the slump showing signs of clicking