Disastrous Chelsea slipped out of the top four in the Premier League as two goals and an assist by Joshua King helped Bournemouth to a morale-thumping victory over the Champions League hopefuls.
Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri said his side’s 4-0 defeat away at Bournemouth is “difficult to understand” and that he wasn’t angry but disappointed by his side’s hapless performance.
Maurizio Sarri’s side dominated the first half on the south coast, but collapsed to their heaviest Premier League defeat in 23 years after the break as Bournemouth secured a first home win against them since September 1988.
Chelsea did hand a Premier League debut to new signing Gonzalo Higuain on the south coast and could have moved three points clear of Arsenal in the race for a Champions League spot but were well below par.
Bournemouth, on the other hand, showed exactly what ruthless attacking front men can do. The home side’s attack was utterly admirable, the slick nature of their passing and movement putting the Carabao Cup finalists to shame.
There was Ryan Fraser’s clever flick for David Brooks, and the Welshman’s precisely weighted pull-back into space for Josh King to dispatch and force Bournemouth ahead. Then the combination play between King and Brooks around the hour mark, with Brooks cutting inside a befuddled David Luiz to slide in a second beyond the exposed Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The home side did not even need their top scorer Callum Wilson, who has undergone a minor knee operation to flush out the joint, to run amok. They were as brilliant as Chelsea were dreadful.
Rigid ‘Sarri- Ball’ showing signs of complete dismantlement
The six-point advantage Chelsea held only a few weeks ago is a distant memory now, and the scrutiny is all on a head coach struggling, still, to comprehend why. Sarri’s rigid formation and personnel (read Jorginho) means teams are now set up to defend low and counter, atactic which Jose Mourinho said is easily achievable against Sarri’s team.
This was arguably a defeat far more insipid than that at Arsenal earlier in the month which had prompted Sarri, in his native tongue, to lacerate his players in public. He has already used the stick, and there is no appetite for carrot. “Maybe we are not at the top of the Premier League at the moment, but we are competitive and we cannot lose 4-0 against Bournemouth,” he mumbled once he had emerged. “I want to respect Bournemouth, and you know I like very much the coach Eddie [Howe], but it’s impossible to lose 4-0 here.”
Chelsea’s head coach finds himself locked in an ideological battle with a fanbase reared on reactive, battling, never-say-die football in the mould of John Terry and Didier Drogba. Sticking to the methods that got him this job, Sarri has enjoyed success this season and has a Wembley final to look forward to next month. But 45 minutes of largely listless possession and a second-half collapse brought the naysayers to the fore.
The Ex Napoli chief was almost self-piteous post-match and took the blame on himself “Maybe it’s my fault because maybe I’m not able to motivate this group and these players. I don’t know why. But I need to understand and we need to understand very soon because we have to play in three days.”
Callum Wilson Who?
Bournemouth top-scorer Callum Wilson failed to shake off a knee injury in time, meaning King was the lone striker this evening, but it didn’t stop Eddie Howe’s men from scoring four goals for the third time this season.
The England striker has scored 11 goals for the Cherries this season, but King and Brooks showed they still carry a threat without him.
The hosts did not have many chances but were clinical in front of goal – scoring four goals from just six shots in a blistering second half.
But they were also impressive at the opposite end of the pitch as well.
The talented Brooks has had an impressive first season in the top flight, and his defensive display in man-marking Jorginho prevented Chelsea finding openings despite large spells of possession.
Chelsea’s passing going nowhere
The Blues made 405 passes in the first half but managed only five shots at goal as they failed to carve open a stubborn Bournemouth defence.
Chelsea loan signing Gonzalo Higuain played just over an hour on his Premier League debut, but his first instinct was to try to link up with talisman Eden Hazard rather than test Boruc.
The Argentina international failed to register a single shot on goal during his 65 minutes on the field, but he and Hazard played 15 passes to each other.
Improvements will have to be made in the coming weeks if Chelsea are to trouble Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final, before attempting to regain their place in the top four.
Higuaín was just the latest Chelsea forward struggling to provide some bite for a team who ping passes with little intent, whose movement off the ball can become aimless, before desperation sets in. They had needed to shift the ball far more quickly during a first half when they were actually on top, but they never went closer than Mateo Kovacic’s early header that was tipped on to the crossbar by Artur Boruc.
David Luiz’s proves in the same match why he can and can’t be the defensive leader
Chelsea’s best moments during the first half were usually prompted by David Luiz’s incisive passing from deep, which injected some tempo into their play. However, the defensive pantomime that accompanied Brooks’ goal will always be part of the baffling package the Brazilian brings to top-flight football.
There was a moment of concern inside the opening couple of minutes for the Blues as the Brazilian went down after being struck in the side of the face by a stinging Brooks drive.
Luiz sold himself far too easily again whilst Chelsea were still easing their way into the half and Brooks showed great composure to set up King for a fierce shot into the roof of the net and the pair combined once more for Bournemouth’s second.
The quick exchange of plays between King and Brooks constantly troubled the Blues’ back four throughout the ninety. Brooks especially had the befuddled Brazilian’s beating time and again, as he cut inside to slide in a second beyond the exposed Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Brilliant Brooks adds man marking efficiency to his growing repertoire
Opta says David Brooks both scored and assisted in an English league game for the first time in his career. When you see him play though, he looks like he will have many more games like these, having adjusted to the top flight like a duck to water.
The talented Welshman has had an impressive first season in the top flight, and his defensive display in man-marking Jorginho prevented Chelsea finding openings despite large spells of possession.
Following the game, Howe said it was something his side had worked on.
“David did a brilliant job beyond his years with his diligence, and then he showed his class at the other end as well so I’m pleased for him,” said Howe.
He also had the most shots on target than any other player on the pitch (3)
The former Manchester City academy graduate has scored six goals and four assists this season, his paltry £11.5 million transfer fee seems to be a Howe masterstroke currently.,