Ben Chilwell was the hero for Chelsea as they came from behind to beat West Ham United 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The Blues were very busy over the summer, spending more money than any other club had in a single transfer window bringing in 11 new players with nine earmarked for the first team. There were three arrivals alone on the final day of the window with Chelsea signing Wesley Fofana, Denis Zakaria and Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng and the latter was the most-sought after of the trio. On Saturday it was clear how much Chelsea need him.
Aubameyang is currently unavailable, unable to train due to a broken jaw, but Thomas Tuchel is hopeful that he can get involved soon once a mask has been fitted. In his absence on Saturday, Tuchel started Christian Pulisic and Raheem Sterling as a faux strike partnership, with Kai Havertz and Mason Mount dropping to the bench. Fans had been growing frustrated with Havertz and Mount’s start to the season, but Saturday’s duo weren’t much better.
Despite having 68.3% possession in the first half at Stamford Bridge, alongside 21 final third entries and 11 touches in the opposition box, Chelsea really didn’t test Lukasz Fabianski who could have taken a seat and traded tales with the away fans in the Shed End.
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The Blues had just four shots in the opening 45 minutes with none hitting the target, and only one of those efforts came from their attacking players. Pulisic was joined by Kalidou Koulibaly, Mateo Kovacic and Conor Gallagher in trying their luck in the first half, but they combined for an xG of 0.21.
At half-time, Armando Broja was sent out to warm up but the Albanian didn’t come on until the 60th minute alongside Mount. Moments later Chelsea’s rotten defensive record reared its ugly head once more as they went behind to Michail Antonio’s tap in following a corner, the fourth goal they have conceded from a set piece this season.
Ten minutes later Tuchel made another double substitution with Chilwell and Kai Havertz coming on, and the former ended up being the hero. Chilwell has had a slow start to the season, being drip fed minutes after only returning from an ACL injury at the end of the 2021/22 campaign. The Englishman had started Chelsea’s first game of the season against Everton but was clearly off pace and eventually replaced in the XI by Marc Cucurella.
With Cucurella setting up Koulibaly against Tottenham and showing signs of attacking threat, it was hard to see Chilwell getting back into the starting XI any time soon. But with his cameo appearance on Saturday, he’s given Tuchel a selection headache.
In his 18 minutes on the pitch, Chilwell had one shot, from which he scored the equaliser latching onto the end of Thiago Silva’s ball over the top to beat Fabianski from an acute angle. He also created one chance, setting up Havertz’s winner, smartly finding the German slightly deeper in the box when others may have tried to fire the ball across goal.
Chelsea fans have been robbed of seeing Chilwell for most of his time at the club, making just 13 appearances last season, and the Englishman admitted after the match that he had to be patient too.
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What an impact from Ben Chilwell against West Ham. ? pic.twitter.com/lQgj4XIwvT
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“The last 20 or 30 minutes were a lot of different emotions! Just happy to get the win,” he told Sky Sports.
“I have had to be patient, bide my time and make sure I am training hard to make sure I can come in and make an impact.”
Chelsea were fortunate to get the win in the end though as West Ham had a goal by Maxwel Cornet ruled out for a very soft foul on goalkeeper Edouard Mendy just moments after Havertz’s striker. It was a chance of Chelsea’s own doing with Reece James’ attempted header back to Mendy tired and the Senegalese shot-stopper hesitant in trying to challenge Cornet. The Blues were definitely let off by VAR, and Tuchel will be hoping the new back three of Koulibaly, Thiago Silva and Fofana can gel quickly.
Tuchel said of the incident: “It was a clear foul on the goalkeeper, I had doubts about the first one – but I will not comment, last time I got punished with huge fines. You give your opinion, you will not be fined.
“It was not easy to keep the belief, it is hard to attack fluid and create chances against West Ham, nobody plays an open, spectacular match against them.
“We take it now step by step, we will try to use this momentum – things are clear now, we can demand full commitment to everything. We are in the middle of creating this and it is not finished.”