Chelsea suffered a 2-1 defeat at Southampton as early season struggles continued for Thomas Tuchel’s side.
Despite Raheem Sterling giving the Blues a lead in the 23rd minute, the Saints levelled five minutes later on 18-year-old Romeo Lavia’s spectacular goal.
It was then in first-half stoppage time that the home side took a lead they would not relinquish courtesy of a deflected effort from Adam Armstrong.
Here is our reaction to Tuesday’s Premier League clash at St Mary’s Stadium.
1. Will loss bolster Tuchel’s call for signings?
This was a bad night for Chelsea. Southampton recorded their first home win over the Blues since March 2013 and they were good value for it, too. Raheem Sterling opened the scoring following a bright start but as soon as Romeo Lavia equalised with a fine strike five minutes later, Chelsea began to play within themselves.
Disjointed in midfield, blunted in attack, this was a night which called into question Thomas Tuchel’s decision to utilise a 4-2-2-2 system that did not seem to suit the players at his disposal. If that is the way he wants to play in future, Chelsea really need to get active in the transfer market.
They are looking at bringing in at one striker and a winger — Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Anthony Gordon and Wilfried Zaha are among their targets and a display like this, not their first sub-par outing of the campaign, should sharpen minds with two days left of the transfer window.
Co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali were both in attendance here to witness it first-hand. That might end up being a good thing in the long run.
2. Can Fofana solve Chelsea’s defensive problems?
Tuchel’s success at Chelsea has been founded on defensive resilience. In his first 50 matches as head coach, the Blues kept 31 clean sheets, more than any other side in Europe’s big five leagues during the same period. So far this season, they have failed to register a single shutout, conceding eight times to date — a record only better than four clubs (Southampton, Crystal Palace, AFC Bournemouth and Leicester City).
There were some mitigating circumstances here given Reece James was absent through sickness, and Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella are still adjusting following their respective summer moves from Napoli and Brighton. But so much of Tuchel’s success came with a back three and in a four-man defence, Thiago Silva’s often looked exposed and combined with Cesar Azpilicueta on the right side of defence, Chelsea looked vulnerable in that channel far too often.
Wesley Fofana is due to complete his £75 million move from Leicester in the coming days — it is a big ask for a 21-year-old to provide stability straight away but the lofty price tag brings expectations of an immediate impact.
Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens discuss Wesley Fofana’s potential impact on Chelsea’s defensive line up.
3. Ziyech and Pulisic mysteries deepen
Hakim Ziyech made a surprise first start of the season on the south coast, something made more unexpected given it came as Ajax Amsterdam are in the middle of negotiations aimed at trying take him back to the Netherlands. Ziyech was thrown into a central midfield role as a result of Conor Gallagher’s suspension and N’Golo Kante’s hamstring injury and did not look comfortable, although he lasted longer than Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who was withdrawn at half-time for Mateo Kovacic.
Christian Pulisic was handed a 24-minute outing as a substitute, his fifth successive appearance off the bench but this one came at right wing-back, a position he would hardly call his best. Chelsea are so far reluctant to sanction a move for Pulisic, who has become frustrated at a lack of regular game-time in his favoured role. An 80th-minute booking for a cynical foul hardly lightened his mood in a disappointing cameo. In fact, the evening encapsulated the malaise both players find themselves in with deadline day fast approaching.
Herculez Gomez says Christian Pulisic failing to get out of Chelsea is terrible news for the American.
Southampton: Bazunu 7, Walker-Peters 7, Bella-Kotchap 7, Salisu 7, Perraud 7, Ward-Prowse 7, Lavia 8, Diallo 7, Elyounoussi 7, Armstrong 8, Adams 7.
Subs: Aribo 6, Djenepo 6, Lyanco 6.
Chelsea: Mendy 6, Azpilicueta 5, Koulibaly 6, Silva 6, Cucurella 6, Loftus-Cheek 5, Jorginho 5, Mount 7, Sterling 7, Ziyech 5, Havertz 5.
Subs: Kovacic 6, Pulisic 5, Broja 6, Chilwell 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Romeo Lavia, Southampton
Became the first player born in 2004 to score a Premier League goal but his performance was much more than that: resilient and combative out of possession, thoughtful and incisive with it.
WORST: Jorginho, Chelsea
Beaten far too easily by Lavia for Adam Armstrong’s goal and failed to inject any rhythm into Chelsea’s play. Substituted with 24 minutes left.
The hearts of Saints’ supporters are swooning for Romeo.
Oh Roméo 😍 pic.twitter.com/3bDIAgL5mA
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) August 30, 2022
After the match: What the managers, players said
“It is not enough to win away matches, it is not enough to play 20-25 minutes on the level we want. It is too easy to put us off balance, to beat us, to confuse us. It is too easy. It happened against Leeds. We need to understand why and find solutions.” — Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel, to BBC
“We have won one time away at Chelsea since I was here, that was four years ago but at home not for a while and it was time to take something.” — Southampton coach Ralph Hasenhuttl
Romeo Lavia became the first player born in 2004 to score in the Premier League. At 18 years and 236 days old, the Belgian youngster is the fourth-youngest Saint ever to score a Premier League goal.
– It was the second time Chelsea trailed at halftime this season. (Also during their 3-0 loss to Leeds). They had no such games during the 2021-22 season.
– Since the 2017-18 season, the title-winning teams have dropped an average of 18.8 points per season. So far into the 2022-23 season, Chelsea already dropped 8 points after five matches.
Chelsea: The Blues are back at Stamford Bridge this Saturday to host West Ham United before opening up Champions League group-stage action at Dinamo Zagreb next Tuesday.
Southampton: The Saints visit Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux on Saturday.