Chelsea stopped the rot with a much-needed 3-0 win over West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on Monday night.
The Blues had slipped down the table following consecutive defeats to Everton and Wolves but returned to fifth after Thiago Silva and a Tammy Abraham brace put their London rivals to the sword.
Chelsea are back in touch in the European race, while West Ham remain stuck in mid-table, but what did we learn from the match?
1. Even West Ham can’t stop the set-piece king
Prior to Monday night’s match, West Ham were yet to concede a single Premier League goal from a set-piece this season. True to form for a David Moyes side, the Hammers have been organised and disciplined inside their own box, and their blend of zonal and man-marking had, thus far, held firm.
However, even they couldn’t stop the Premier League’s collective and individual set-piece kings from striking at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea taking the lead inside 10 minutes via a corner.
The provider? Mason Mount, who now tops the charts at Chelsea when it comes to Premier League assists this season, with all three of them coming from corners. Each have been in-swingers, only on Monday it was Thiago Silva running loose in the box to deliver a thunderous header beyond Lukasz Fabianski, rather than Kurt Zouma, who had finished off the other two earlier in the year.
All three of Mason Mount’s Premier League assists this season have been for Chelsea’s centre backs.
⚽️ Zouma 🅰️ Mount
⚽️ Zouma 🅰️ Mount
⚽️ T.Silva 🅰️ Mount
Superb delivery from set pieces. pic.twitter.com/AYXLeqawv6
— Squawka (@Squawka) December 21, 2020
This moved Chelsea onto eight set-piece goals this season, the joint-highest alongside Everton and Southampton. Not quite the route to goal you’d expect from a team containing the likes of Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic, but a route Frank Lampard will take nonetheless.
2. Werner’s tough transition continues
Timo Werner gave a very honest assessment of his struggles at Stamford Bridge heading into this match.
“The Premier League is a little bit different to my old league. It’s tougher than I thought,” he said. “The contact here is harder than in Germany, it’s what I expected but not like this.
“The beginning was very good, but now after a lot of games, I’m struggling a little. I think it’s hard when you play every three days… and on Saturday against teams that can rest the whole week. It makes it tough to be the best in every game but the Premier League is very fun to play in.”
Monday night was no different for the Germany international, who failed to register a goal for the 10th consecutive game for club and country.
Werner had his chances, most prominently fluffing his line from mere yards away after Pulisic had made a commanding run forward before feeding the ball to his forward partner. Could Pulisic have made it easier with an earlier pass? Sure, but a striker of Werner’s pedigree should be gobbling up one-on-one chances in the 18-yard box for fun.
Even the assist Werner is likely to be credited with was the fluke result of a mishit shot, scuffing the ball on the edge of the box, only for it to find Tammy Abraham who gladly fired home to make it 2-0.
And then right at the end, Werner was played into the box by N’Golo Kante. A confident Werner would have calmly slotted home into the bottom corner but instead, he took a wild swipe at the ball, slamming the crossbar when the net should have been bulging.
This is a night to celebrate for Lampard, but he’ll be keenly aware of the confidence crisis his star striker is suffering from.
3. Another unsuccessful crossing at the Bridge for Moyes
Another trip to Stamford Bridge, another defeat for David Moyes, who must be absolutely sick of the sight of this ground now.
Monday night’s 3-0 whacking made it 16 career visits to Stamford Bridge without a win for the Scottish manager, who has lost nine and drawn seven times during that run.
That equals the Premier League record winless run at a single ground by a manager set by, yes, David Moyes at Anfield, home of his former Merseyside rivals, Liverpool.
Of course, Moyes has almost always been the underdog on his visits to these particular footballing cathedrals. Still, it’s a record which will cause 57-year-old much embarrassment and something he’ll be desperate to put to an end sooner rather than later.
4. Individual errors taint a largely promising Hammers showing
Only the bottom four of Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich conceded more goals than West Ham’s 62 last season. A 5-0 defeat to Manchester City here, a 4-1 thumping to Leicester City there, and a 3-3 draw at home to Brighton along the way. In short, the Hammers were a defensive mess, especially in the early part of the season.
However, as Moyes got his teeth into this current West Ham squad, so their defensive organisation increased and by the end of the season, they were staying in games far longer. The fruits of those labour are now paying off with only Chelsea, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Manchester City conceding fewer than their 16 goals prior to Monday.
For large parts of this match, that defensive prowess was on show again. Tomas Soucek put in a typically robust midfield performance, winning a ridiculous seven aerial duels on his own. Fabian Balbuena kept it simple yet effective with two tackles and five clearances. And while the raw data may not reflect it, Declan Rice once again put in a wonderful performance in front of his back-four, screening right across the width of the pitch and doing his best to thwart Chelsea further up the field, too.
But let’s not forget that West Ham lost 3-0. Moyes will be pulling his hair out at the individual errors that cost his team on the night. Jarrod Bowen switching off to allow Thiago Silva to run free for the first goal, Aaron Cresswell falling asleep to keep Abraham onside for the second. These are mistakes you simply cannot make against a side like Chelsea, mistakes which completely changed what should have been a conversation about a positive West Ham performance.
5. Thiago Silva rolls back the years… again
Many raised their eyebrows at Chelsea signing a 36-year-old centre-back in the summer, but nobody could deny they lacked a defensive leader last season. On Monday night, Thiago Silva once again showed exactly why he was brought in from PSG to steady Lampard’s ship.
Obviously, the most eye-catching part of Silva’s performance was his early goal, where he arrived like a steam-train to head home Mount’s corner, almost ripping a hole in the net in the process. However, the Brazilian was so much more than that on the night.
Though not prolific, Sebastien Haller is an immense physical presence and can test even the most resolute defender, but Silva gobbled the Frenchman up with consummate ease. The former PSG man outperformed each of his teammates when it came to aerial duels won (6), doing so at a 60% success rate, while no Chelsea player made more clearances (6) or interceptions (3) than the veteran.
Thiago Silva’s game by numbers vs. West Ham:
92 touches (most)
92% pass accuracy (69/75)
6 aerial duels won
6 clearances (=most)
3 interceptions (=most)
1 shot on target
Another great performance. pic.twitter.com/TIrH5S0YZl
— Squawka (@Squawka) December 21, 2020
But more than just a no-nonsense destroyer, Silva was the first to assume responsibility in possession of the ball, having a match-high 92 touches and completing more passes (69) than any other player on the pitch at a success rate of 92%.
He’s not going to be around for long, but Silva is looking more and more like an inspired signing by Lampard, replacing chaos with calm and serenity.