It is the Blues rather than the Saints who go marching on in this season’s Carabao Cup and as the dust settles on last night’s tie, we look in detail at some of the main factors in play when the two sides went head-to-head for a second time in the month.
There were plenty of similarities between this one and our previous outing in this competition against Aston Villa – both ties at Stamford Bridge against top-flight opposition with Chelsea taking the lead, a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes, and a Kepa save and concluding Reece James penalty in the shoot-out, but there were differences too, and from when we beat Southampton 3-1 in the league on 2 October.
On that day Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side played 4-4-2. Last night Southampton matched our shape, playing wing-backs for the first time this season, a formation Hasenhuttl claimed they had only trained with once, in the session immediately prior to the game.
However instead of the two sides cancelling each other out when the one-v-ones matched up all over the pitch, it proved to be a contest of multiple chances at both ends, even if there were only two goals scored.
Busy at the back
The 23 shots we had matched our number in the thrashing of Norwich at the weekend, the most for Chelsea this season, and the 14 on target was one more than in the 7-0 versus the Canaries.
Southampton had 15 attempts at our net. From those, Kepa had to make six saves, although one was followed by their goal. Four other shots were blocked, two by the prominent Trevoh Chalobah.
With Chelsea being asked to do plenty of defending over the course of the game, Chalobah won eight aerial challenges, twice as many as any of his team-mates, and the 22-year-old also made 11 clearances. To put that into context, next up in the team was Malang Sarr with four clearances.
In the second half the Chelsea goal came under more pressure than in the first. Six of the seven Saints’ shots on target came after the break. For the Blues it was a more even spread – five in the first half to nine in the second.
Our opponents manufactured three of what were rated as ‘big chances’, and missed two of those, whereas we did not take our only one. Despite our greater number of attempts at goal, Southampton’s expected goals were greater than Chelsea’s.
Ross forward, Saul mobile
When the team line-ups were announced, with a similar defensive shape and personnel selected as in the Carabao Cup game against Villa, there were good reasons to think it would be two-man attack again.
On that occasion Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner were paired up front but although Ziyech was in the side again this time, with Kai Havertz rather than injured Werner, Ross Barkley was also in the forward line, him and Ziyech playing mostly wider and slightly deeper than Havertz.
Barkley played five key passes leading to an attempt on goal, the most, with Havertz supplying four.
Havertz had five attempts at goal (three on target including the goal), matched by Southampton’s Adam Armstrong although only one of his was accurate.
With Barkley pushed forward, Mateo Kovacic and Saul were the central midfield pair, with the Spaniard roving more during his first full Chelsea game than Kovacic who occupied the centre ground.
That allowed Saul to have four attempts at goal of which three were on target. Reece James, despite his back-three role, struck two out of two at the goal.
Both Kovacic and Saul made the most tackles in the game, six apiece.
New role, pleasingly familiar outcome
For the final quarter of the game, with Callum Hudson-Odoi pushed forward into the attack from his initial wing-back role, we had the unusual sight of Ben Chilwell brought on to play as right wing-back rather than on the left. It was Chilwell’s 50th Chelsea appearance.
The final act played out on the Stamford Bridge stage was the penalty shoot-out. Following on from the Super Cup against Villarreal and the Villa game, the Blues have won three shoot-outs in a season for the first time and we had never won three in a row at any time before.
Kepa Arrizabalaga already held the club record for most shoot-out saves and he has extended that to eight, followed by Petr Cech on six and Kevin Hitchcock on four.
Chelsea have now progressed to the next round of the League Cup on all three occasions we have been drawn to play Southampton.