Chelsea, under new management, have two home games in a week, the first the welcoming of a West Midlands side to west London. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton turn to a fresh chapter of match previews…
This is the first of two home games in five days that will help shape the next few months as Chelsea move into a new era under Thomas Tuchel. The highly regarded Bavarian coach, who took training at Cobham yesterday, will be in the dugout at Stamford Bridge tonight.
The 20th match of the campaign is a 6pm kick-off. BT Sport have a monopoly on showing this round of matches in the UK and there are two further start times later this evening.
Wolves, who were 2-1 winners at Molineux earlier in the campaign, have a decent record in the capital generally but have not won at the Bridge since March 1979.
The Blues have failed to score in only one of our past 18 top-flight meetings with Wolves and won the same fixture last season 2-0 thanks to first-half stoppage time goals from Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud.
Chelsea are hoping to extend our unbeaten home run in all competitions against Wolves to 10 games
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
After Sunday’s cup success, Chelsea’s players must readjust not only to the different rhythm of the league but the conducting of a new maestro. The Blues’ first coach from Germany, Thomas Tuchel’s reputation is for tactical flexibility and unlocking the best in his players, especially youth products – including the teenage Christian Pulisic. His fondness for pace and pressing should also suit the current squad.
The 47-year-old steered Paris Saint-Germain to a quadruple and their first Champions League final, with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe upfront and Thiago Silva in defence.
Now the Bavarian is now tasked with reattaching the connective tissue of a team that has sustained five losses in eight league games and slipped from top of the tree in early December to 10th place before kick-off this evening.
Although the synergy of autumn’s performances may take time to revive, the raw material could be found in youngsters of the kind that built his reputation, not least Sunday’s skipper and man of the match, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham.
Mount has carved out 48 chances for team-mates in his 18 league appearances this season (close to the 52 he achieved over the whole of last term), or one every 32 minutes. Abraham’s hat-trick, meanwhile, made him the Blues’ leading scorer with 11 in all competitions at the halfway stage of the season, and has hit six career goals in three games against tonight’s visitors, including a treble for the Blues last season.
Tuchel has often favoured four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards, a system familiar to the squad he takes over, but for better service to a pair of strikers he has also used a 3-5-2, 4-2-2-2, and 4-4-2 – the set-up the Blues used successfully against Luton, with Timo Werner and Abraham paired upfront.
He appears to like his full-backs to play high upfield and draw man-markers away from strikers – something in which Ben Chilwell and Reece James excel – and has opted for one of his two central midfielders to play deep near the centre-backs while the other acts as playmaker, initiating attacks. Plenty of candidates for both roles exist at the club, though N’Golo Kante’s injury may mean him missing out tonight.
Of course France’s Ligue 1 is very different from the Premier League. Drawing on his experience in the Bundesliga, though, will bring Tuchel a closer understanding of the breakneck pace and physicality of England’s top flight.
Tuchel’s opening night is against a Wolverhampton team aiming to avoid a third successive league defeat. They have not managed a clean sheet for 12 league outings, have conceded two or more goals in each of the last three, and share with Newcastle the worst record over the past six winless matches.
Even before the unfortunate loss of Raul Jimenez after a fractured skull at Tottenham, Wanderers were creating fewer big chances this term than last and winning fewer penalties.
In the absence of the influential Mexican those attacking statistics have dropped further, and his youthful replacement Fabio Silva has contributed one goal from open play. Daniel Podence has not found the net since Chelsea’s loss at Molineux in December, and has been injured since the end of that month.
The loss of fire power led to suggestions former Chelsea man Diego Costa could alight in the Black Country, but at the weekend Willian Jose joined Nuno Espirito Santo’s large Lusophone contingent. The 29-year-old Brazilian striker has netted six times for Real Sociedad this season but is not expected to be available for tonight’s fixture.
Jimenez also plays a pivotal role defending corners and free-kicks, meaning fewer attempts on goals by opponents than is now the case. In fact, only Leeds with 10 have conceded more from set-plays than Wolves’ nine, which is equal to their tally for the whole of 2019/20.
Overall, the Old Gold conceded 46 goals in their first campaign after promotion and six fewer last season. At the halfway stage of the current campaign they have already let in 29. Santo ditched his usual back three with initial success in terms of unleashing their attack, but defensively the leaks increased, and they are conceding many more penalties than before.
How to watch Chelsea vs Wolves
This match will be covered live by BT Sport in the UK. To find the relevant broadcaster where you are elsewhere, see the Premier League’s broadcast schedule pages.
Highlights will be available on this website from midnight.
Our Matchday Live shoe’s early team news, exclusive interviews and analysis are available worldwide on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and the official YouTube channel.
Thank you and farewell, Frank
Frank Lampard has departed after 84 games in charge of the club for whom he is the all-time leading goalscorer. He leaves with a huge amount of goodwill for steering the Blues through some of the most testing times in ours – and football’s – history.
Of those 84 matches, 44 (52 per cent) were victories, 17 (20 per cent) draws, and 23 (27 per cent) losses. He reached the FA Cup final and secured Champions League football in his first season, but his enduring coaching legacy may lie in the eight debuts he handed to players from the Chelsea Academy.
The midpoint of the Premier League season was reached against Leicester, but Chelsea’s season has actually been two very different spells within those 19 games.
After 11 games, the Blues were two points off leadership of the table with half-a-dozen victories, a solitary defeat to champions Liverpool (while reduced to 10 men) and a goal difference of 14.
Over the past eight, two more wins came but also five defeats. Goals-for dropped from an average of 2.3 per game after the much-praised 3-1 defeat of Leeds to one per game since then. The tally of one goal conceded per game has also risen by 50 per cent to 1.5 in the past eight.
This drop-off in chance-creation and net-finding mirrors what happened last season. An even younger Blues team won eight of the opening 12 in the league before a spell in November/December brought five losses in seven games.
The positive is that the talented team returned to form, putting in a great run from the defeat of Spurs in February to secure fourth spot. That position is only five points out of the Blues’ grasp now and, with half of this oddest of seasons remaining to play, eminently achievable under the new coach.
Home record remains
Hardly mentioned in the aftermath of Burnley’s victory at Anfield was the fact that Liverpool’s first defeat after 68 matches there left them 18 short of all-time record in the top flight.
That was, of course, Chelsea’s remarkable 86-game unbeaten home league run, set between March 2004 and October 2008. Every Premier League club has now lost at home this season, but the current longest run is nine for Manchester City.
After Sunday, Chelsea have lost just two of past 21 matches in all competitions at home, winning 14.
Marking Holocaust Memorial Day with matchday tribute
This year Chelsea Football Club will mark today's Holocaust Memorial Day at the Wolves game with a tribute commemorating the victims of the Holocaust.
The tribute will highlight the stories of 20 sportsmen and women, 17 of those of Jewish heritage who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.
Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 will be commemorated with a light display in the stadium, during which the names of athletes who lost their lives will be read out in the stadium in front of players and club representatives, with figures in the darkness lighting up around the stadium. The stories of the athletes highlight that no part of society was spared, and the club will continue to keep their legacy alight by sharing their stories to inspire future generations.
As ever, the feature-packed matchday programme, including back-issues, can bought online for £3.50 plus postage
Midweek Premier League fixtures (all on BT Sport)
Crystal Palace v West Ham 6pm
Newcastle v Leeds 6pm
Southampton v Arsenal 8.15pm
West Brom v Man City 8.15pm
Burnley v Aston Villa 6pm
Chelsea v Wolves 6pm
Brighton v Fulham 7.30pm
Everton v Leicester 8.15pm
Man Utd v Sheffield Utd 8.15pm
Tottenham v Liverpool 8pm
|9||West Ham United||18||8||5||5||25||21||4||29|
|16||Brighton and Hove Albion||19||3||8||8||22||29||-7||17|
|19||West Bromwich Albion||18||2||5||11||14||41||-27||11|