Alvaro Morata can't carry Chelsea's scoring load in 5/10 performance vs. Saints
LONDON -- Chelsea endured another frustrating night at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday as they were held to a goalless draw by struggling Southampton, with Willian limping off in the first half to compound Maurizio Sarri's injury crisis.
If there is one, it is that Sarri's lack of wing options should mean a run of games for Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Callum Hudson-Odoi, too, can expect more regular meaningful minutes provided that his recovery from a minor hamstring problem is as swift as initially predicted.
Chelsea's crippling lack of firepower was once again exposed by opponents set up to frustrate them. Alvaro Morata, eager as he was, provided further evidence that he is not equipped to shoulder the scoring burden this team needs him to, while Sarri's system cannot truly take flight without some fresh personnel.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Sarri's lack of rotation over the festive period has surely contributed to a slowing of Chelsea's attacking tempo in recent games, making them more predictable and easier to stifle. His unbending devotion to a 4-3-3 also makes it very difficult to change games from the bench, and this one drifted to the end.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 7 -- One curling shot from Stuart Armstrong in the first half was the extent of his workload in terms of saves, but his distribution caught the eye when he hit a first-time pass out to Loftus-Cheek on the right to start a counter. He doesn't do much, but what he does, he generally does well.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 -- This was a game in which his attacking contributions were more important than his defensive qualities, and they were few and far between. One early cross into Morata's head aside, he supplied few dangerous deliveries and he doesn't offer much else to break down a defence.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Played the best pass of the match when he floated a lovely 40-yard ball onto Eden Hazard's foot behind the Southampton defence, and used the ball sensibly when more ambitious options didn't present themselves. Was typically dominant in the air and on the floor.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Had good moments distributing the ball under pressure but too often tried to force a killer ball when it wasn't on, comically attempting to float high balls into the Southampton box for N'Golo Kante a couple of times. Deserves credit for trying to make the difference, but rarely got close.
DF Marcos Alonso, 5 -- His crossing remains erratic and it feels as if teams have wised up to the attacking runs he makes into the box. Angus Gunn never had to worry about him here, and one late dive in the box never got close to giving referee Jonathan Moss a decision to make.
MF Ross Barkley, 6 -- A spell on the bench has deprived him of his early-season momentum and he did little here to suggest he should get the minutes that Loftus-Cheek and Mateo Kovacic also crave. Sarri clearly agreed, taking him off to bring on Cesc Fabregas in the 68th minute.
MF Jorginho, 6 -- He more than most appears to be feeling the strain of a first experience of English football's gruelling winter schedule. His passing was sloppier than usual and he seems to be labouring across the ground, even for a player who never relies on speed.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- Chelsea's best player in the first half, consistently breaking Southampton's lines with driving runs and incisive passes. Faded after the interval but really looks to be adapting to what Sarri wants from him, and his physical conditioning is remarkable.
FW Willian, 6 -- Did not manage to make much of an impact before a heavy tackle forced him off in the 37th minute, to be replaced by Loftus-Cheek.
FW Alvaro Morata, 5 -- Started this game with plenty of desire to impress, holding the ball up well and linking with Chelsea's midfield runners. Goals are what he is judged on, though, and his touch failed him at crucial times again here -- and the only time it didn't, the timing of his run proved his undoing.
FW Eden Hazard, 6 -- Forced the best save that Gunn had to make all evening with a fierce left-footed shot in the first half, but could not provide a consistent goal threat from his favoured left flank. Whenever he is anything less than excellent, Chelsea struggle.
FW Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 6 -- Had good moments on the right flank, exhibiting the speed, power and close control that make him a problem in wide areas, but it is clear he is not yet back in peak physical condition.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 6 -- Making his 500th appearance in English club football -- and maybe playing his last game for Chelsea -- he was unable to exert a constant influence in a more advanced role but did play in Morata to score, only for the assistant's flag to spoil what would have been a decisive contribution.