The warning signs were there after only four minutes for Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea. A tame shot from Matheus Pereira came at the end of a passage of play that saw the Blues robbed of the ball in midfield. They got away with it on that occasion but it was a familiar sight as Chelsea conceded five goals against relegation-threatened West Brom.
Several misplaced passes later and there were suspicions that it could be a slightly tougher afternoon than Chelsea had expected. A number of their players seemed slightly off the pace and a little rusty, even before Thiago Silva’s costly sending off. The Blues made eight changes to the starting XI who beat Sheffield United in the FA Cup before the international break. The absence of Mason Mount raised a few eyebrows after his brilliant performances recently for both club and country, while there was a welcome return for Silva in the centre of their defence. Or so we thought.
29 – Thiago Silva’s red card after 29 minutes is Chelsea’s earliest in a Premier League game since Gary Cahill was sent off after 14 minutes against Burnley in August 2017. Rusty. #CHEWBA
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 3, 2021
Silva was returning for the first time from a thigh injury he picked up against Tottenham on February 4. The Brazilian has been fantastic in the main for Chelsea since joining on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer. But this was not his finest 28 minutes. The 36-year-old picked up a booking only five minutes in when he pulled back Pereira, leaving the experienced centre-back walking a tightrope for the rest of the game.
Marcos Alonso’s whipped free-kick, which hit the post on 27 minutes, was stabbed home by Christian Pulisic, with Chelsea seemingly on course to a standard Tuchel victory to nil – but an incident seconds later turned the match on its head. Flying out to block a shot, Silva was out of control and caught Okay Yokuslu well after the ball had gone. It was perhaps a little unfortunate but it was clumsy and left referee David Coote no choice but to send him off. It was Silva’s first red card since 5 May 2013, when he was sent off for PSG in a Ligue 1 match. That left Chelsea up against it with a visibly unhappy Hakim Ziyech replaced by Andreas Christensen as Tuchel looked to shore up his defence.
Despite Chelsea having the two best chances which followed, it was West Brom who scored next with a long boot downfield from Baggies keeper Sam Johnstone bouncing on the edge of the box and Pereira expertly flicked the ball into the net. The Baggies had been decent until that point going forward but that goal gave them the confidence to run riot. If the first goal was a bad time to concede – two minutes into first-half injury time – the second was even worse with West Brom taking the lead with almost the last kick of the half. It was great work again from Pereira but Chelsea were falling apart at this point.
And although Silva will get a lot of the stick for his sending off, Jorginho played a major role in the first-half turnaround. The Italian passed it straight to Pereira in the lead up to Silva’s first yellow, with the Brazilian having little choice but to bring the attacker down. Not only that, but Jorginho gave the ball away again in the West Brom attack which led to Silva’s second booking. And to round it off, the former Napoli midfielder weirdly attempted a backwards header which landed at Mbaye Diagne’s feet in the build-up to Sam Allardyce’s side’s second goal.
8 – West Brom’s eight goals against Chelsea in the Premier League this season is the most the Blues have shipped against an opponent in a single top-flight campaign since conceding nine against Liverpool in 1989-90. Gluttons. #CHEWBA
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 3, 2021
CIES Football Observatory this week ranked Jorginho as the best player in the Premier League since the turn of the year, slightly ahead of Manchester City’s Ruben Dias, while Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski were the only two players ranking above him in the world. There is no doubt he has been impressive since Tuchel joined but he will want to put this performance behind him as quickly as possible.
And so will Tuchel, who had to watch his Chelsea side concede another three goals, with the Blues conceding as many goals in the first half today (two) as in their previous 14 matches under the German in all competitions. West Brom deserve credit though, especially for their sublime third and fourth goals, leaving Chelsea with no chance of salvaging anything from the match. Mount climbed off the bench to grab a second for the Blues – but it wasn’t enough as a 5-2 victory for West Brom handed Tuchel his first big test as Chelsea boss.
Speaking after the match, Tuchel said: “There was nothing so much until the red card came. After that we were unable to cope with the situation. I don’t know why.” It is likely to be a very small but very loud blip in his Chelsea reign with Porto likely to get a reaction when the teams meet in Champions League action on Wednesday. It certainly opens the door to West Ham, Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton – who are chasing a top-four finish – with the Blues still to face tough matches against the Hammers, Manchester City, Arsenal and Leicester before the end of the season. Tuchel has been brilliant so far but it will be interesting to see how his talented squad reacts to adversity.