Chelsea couldn’t find a way past a resilient Watford side on Wednesday as they failed to build on their win at Arsenal. Guus Hiddink kept his unbeaten run up with this point, but the Dutchman offered little attacking inspiration to edge the game. The Blues move up one place, to 13th, but there’s still little to shout about for fans of the reigning Premier League champions.
After making a few changes for the cup tie with MK Dons, Hiddink’s team took on a familiar look here. John Obi Mikel returned in place of Rueben Loftus-Cheek, with the Nigerian forming a defensive midfield duo with Nemanja Matic once more. Cesc Fabregas moved into a more attacking midfield role, while Willian replaced Eden Hazard in attacking midfield. Kurt Zouma came back into the team for Gary Cahill at the back.
Zouma was forced into action pretty often in the first half, as the home side had the run of the early stages. Thibaut Courtois was the busier of the two goalkeepers, he was at full stretch a number of times in the first 45 minutes. The Hornets had 10 shots in a cagey first half, which was a massive change from the intensity shown by the Chelsea team at MK Dons over the weekend.
The second half started off a lot better for the Blues, as a blocked shot from Oscar fell to Mikel. The holding man isn’t one you’d associate with troubling goalkeepers, but his long range shot took a deflection, and it almost looped over the head of Heurelho Gomes.
The Blues finally made an attacking change after 72 minutes, as Hiddink sacrificed a defensive midfielder for Hazard. Having finally opened his account for the season at the weekend, he probably should have seen a little more of the game. That being said, it’s hard to fault the manager for being concerned about the state of this back four, and giving them as much cover as possible.
Hazard helped to cut open the Watford defence, playing a fantastic pull back to Branislav Ivanovic after some great Chelsea play. The Serbian’s shot was saved by Gomes, but it was a sign that the Belgian is slowly returning to being the attacking influence he was last season.
Gomes had to be at his best to deny a header from Diego Costa, saving his side from suffering a late defeat. The Hornets may have dominated the first half, but the Blues took charge of the second, and only Gomes stopped them from taking all three points.
While this wasn’t the worst result of the campaign, it was yet another failure to win back to back games. That’s something the Blues haven’t managed to achieve all term, and now they’re back to square one. It looks like that late winning run to make the top four was just a pipe dream after all.
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