On Sunday Saints travel to Chelsea for a second consecutive tough away fixture in London. Although defeated by Basel in midweek, Chelsea will be determined to push on from an excellent result and performance in their last Premier League game, away at West Ham. Saints on the other hand, competed well with Arsenal whilst never seriously testing the Gunners back line and shooting themselves in the foot with two silly errors which gave Arsenal the win. I expect the game to be similar to the Arsenal one in the respect of us competing with them and showing what we can do but if we want to give ourselves any chance of winning the game we will have to be far more clinical in the final third.
Chelsea are a side who, if we aren’t on our top form, can look to exploit us with their pace and clinical counter attacking football, and we will have to be very wary that, given our high pressing game, we don’t leave too many spaces for them to punish us. In that respect I see Eden Hazard being a particular danger to us. Hazard has started to find his feet again this season after a great debut year at the Blues, and has the sort of pace that I’m referring to and that can cause us serious problems if we don’t keep a close eye on him. It will be crucial that Shaw defends well in order to keep him quiet, whilst also needing help from Wanyama.
Defensively though I continue to feel confident about the side. Even without our best player this season, Lovren, being out last week we looked solid at the back, barring Boruc’s inexplicable error. What does concern me is our lack of goals on the road. With only 4 in 6 league games, we are clearly struggling to replicate our home form in the final third where we have scored 11 in the 6 games at St. Mary’s. Granted, we scored 4 of those in one game against Hull but we have been noticeably more dangerous at home, and have carried a far greater threat in the final third.
With the talent we have going forward, I have no doubt we will turn this around but it is clearly something that we need to improve as we have looked very good in a lot of our games away this season without ever really posing a significant threat. This needs to start from the very front and therefore with Rickie Lambert and Pablo Osvaldo. Lambert has had the better start to the season but has had on occasion a tendency to go missing on our travels. He possesses all the attributes to trouble the Chelsea defence as he has the strength to avoid being bullied off the ball by Terry or Cahill, whilst also possessing the good touch and skill needed to unlock their defence to feed faster players or to get in space to create chances for himself.
I do think it will be a close game with both teams desperate to impress, and looking to go on the front foot, and although I make Chelsea the slight favourites I do believe our strong pressing style will cause them some problems as it does to anyone when we get it right. If we can make them uncomfortable early on and get the crowd impatient then we could very easily nick a point or all three. If we leave too many gaps though, we could find ourselves being hit on the counter and in serious trouble.