N'Golo Kante 8/10 lone bright spot for lethargic Chelsea in loss to West Ham
Chelsea saw the last embers of their title defence burn out as they lost 1-0 to West Ham at the London Stadium.
The early kickoff seemed to catch Chelsea half asleep as the home side showed much more desire in the opening stages. Some dozy defending from the visitors allowed Marko Arnautovic to find space in the penalty area after six minutes and he slipped the ball past Thibaut Courtois for the game's only goal. When Chelsea conceded early last week against Newcastle, it prompted a powerful response. This time, it was the opposition that was galvanised, with West Ham players first to almost every second ball.
Antonio Conte rang the changes in the second half, making all three permitted substitutions before the 64th minute. It was all to no avail, as his team huffed and puffed but failed to draw Adrian into a meaningful save. Both Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard had good chances to equalise, but each squandered their opportunity.
There was very little that Conte will be able to take out of this display. There was an improvement in intensity in the second half, though that is the least that should be expected in a local derby.
There was a lethargy about the performance, which was possibly a legacy from their midweek exertions in the Champions League. Nevertheless, passing and movement were both sloppy from the Blues, and the amount of aerial balls played into the diminutive Hazard was perplexing. The lack of clear chances created was also concerning.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- The team Conte selected was strong on paper, though with only one change from the side that contested a fierce encounter with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday more of a refresh might have helped. Despite much tinkering with personnel and positioning in the second half, scoring chances were still at a premium.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 -- Was rarely called upon but was not convincing when he was. Didn't get down quickly enough to stop Arnautovic's shot and bizarrely conceded a corner when he could have picked up the ball.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- A reasonable all-around display that saw few errors but nothing decisive. Sent several of his trademark crosses into the box without any finding their intended target.
DF Andreas Christensen, 5 -- After an excellent start to life in the first team, this was a really difficult game for the young Denmark international. Lost Arnautovic for the first and was troubled by the Austria midfielder all afternoon while also badly misjudging two defensive headers.
DF Gary Cahill, 6 -- Might have been sharper for the opening goal and was almost culpable for another when his loose pass played in Michail Antonio.
MF Marcos Alonso, 5 -- Was harshly booked for a foul on Adrian, which seemed to hit his confidence. Contributed little going forward and might even have received another yellow when he hauled down a West Ham forward. Was withdrawn early in the second half.
MF Davide Zappacosta, 6 -- Started poorly but grew into the game. Despite limited technical ability, he still managed to draw a good save from Adrian and also curled another shot just past the post.
MF N'Golo Kante, 8 -- Chelsea's driving force in midfield from both an attacking and defending perspective. The one shining light on a dismal afternoon.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 7 -- Was one of the few that started the match positively. A surging run could only be curtailed by a cynical tug from Pedro Obiang, who remarkably escaped a booking. Was unfortunate to be the first player withdrawn.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 6 -- The Spain international was virtually anonymous for the opening 20 minutes. Once he woke up he was a constant presence, though his passing radar was askew, with none of his intended through balls hitting their mark.
FW Eden Hazard, 7 -- Never stopped working but was not helped by teammates around him. Found himself triple-marked at times and was rarely able to wriggle free of the shackles.
FW Alvaro Morata, 5 -- This was the club record signing's most ineffective outing since arriving, but he still might have won an early penalty after Winston Reid grabbed his shirt on the blind side of the referee. Gave the ball away on each of his first three touches and was unable to hold up the ball or play in his fellow forwards. Had a golden chance to equalise late on only to blaze wide with only Adrian to beat.
FW, Pedro, 6 -- Plenty of energy and movement; very little end product.
MF, Victor Moses, 5 -- Apart from one run that saw him cynically upended by Pedro Obiang (not booked, again), the returning wing-back offered little.
FW, Willian 5 -- One run of purpose almost undid the West Ham defence, though that was as good as it got.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.