Bakayoko's carelessness, sending off set Chelsea up for defeat at Watford
Chelsea's miserable start to 2018 continued with a limp 4-1 Premier League defeat at Watford on Monday night.
The visitors never got going, with the home side displaying far more energy and desire from the first whistle. Richarlison was causing problems for the Blues, but it was one of their own, Tiemoue Bakayoko, who was their biggest threat. The Frenchman couldn't put a foot right, and his sending off after 30 minutes, although exceptionally harsh, removed him from further humiliation. Referee Mike Dean then awarded Watford a spot kick after some Broadway-style theatrics from Gerard Deulofeu, and Troy Deeney gave his side a deserved lead.
The second half was no better until Antonio Conte finally decided to change his approach and introduce Olivier Giroud. With Eden Hazard enjoying more space and Watford retreating, the Belgian scored a wonderful equaliser with eight minutes remaining. Any relief was short-lived as Daryl Janmaat restored their lead before Deulofeu wrapped it up. There was still time for Chelsea to be further embarrassed when Roberto Pereyra fired in a fourth in injury time.
Hazard's goal. Otherwise, none.
Every player was guilty of giving the ball away cheaply from the start of the game and created unnecessary pressure for themselves. Failed to match Watford's commitment until the closing stages, by which time it was too late. There were few discernible patterns of play and hardly any moments of invention. And there was none of the old Chelsea rage and anger at a game getting away from them. This team is far too nice.
Manager rating out of 10
3 -- With the team crying out for a focal point, it was bizarre to see Hazard lead the line again with Giroud fit enough to be on the bench. Not introducing the Frenchman once reduced to 10 men was equally baffling. Did eventually switch to a back four and went more direct, which resulted in the equaliser, but it was too little, too late. Conte will always be a legend for winning the title, but there now seem to be too many excuses and not enough self-motivation. His body language is a world away from where it was last season.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 5 -- Although he wasn't helped by Deulofeu's exaggerated dive, his decision to rush out and concede the penalty was very poor. Had little chance with any of the other goals.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 -- Did reasonably well against the lively Richarlison, though was not imposing enough in other areas.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Looked rusty after a spell away from the team, but at least was committed in everything he did. Got booked unnecessarily, which then prevented him from making important challenges thereafter.
DF Gary Cahill, 5 -- Started with one excellent block but was caught out of position and burnt for pace by Deulofeu for the penalty incident. Struggles continued as the game wore on.
MF Victor Moses, 5 -- Failed to put a single decent cross into the box despite numerous opportunities.
MF N'Golo Kante, 6 -- Even a tour de force like Kante cannot paper over so many cracks. Won the ball back effectively enough but also gave it away too often.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 2 -- Could not do right for doing wrong, inadvertently creating two clear goal-scoring chances for Watford. Nevertheless, should never have been sent off, with neither yellow card being warranted.
MF Davide Zappacosta, 7 -- One of the few to be able to hold their head high with a solid display. Was one of Chelsea's few effective attacking outlets, and his work deserved better.
FW Pedro, 4 -- Completely ineffective as he has been for weeks, and it can only have been injury concerns that saw Willian withdrawn ahead of him following the red card.
FW Willian, 5 -- Was as culpable as anyone in the opening half-hour, blazing a good chance over the bar, but was still unlucky to be substituted.
FW Eden Hazard, 6 -- Totally isolated for an hour and invisible as a result. Liberated after Giroud's introduction and scored a beautiful goal.
DF Cesc Fabregas, 5 -- Brought on after half an hour to control the game and provide some creativity, he had very little impact in either realm.
FW Olivier Giroud, 5 -- His presence made a difference even if nothing he actually did resulted in anything.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.