Chelsea

Chelsea end week of off-field mayhem with potentially galvanising Newcastle win

Sean Walsh
Thomas Tuchel was smiling come full time
Thomas Tuchel was smiling come full time / Clive Mason/GettyImages
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Can you believe sanctions were only brought against Roman Abramovich on Thursday? As in, three days ago?

Time has certainly flown, and if you're a Chelsea fan it's definitely not been because you've been having fun.

The Blues responded to initial news of Abramovich's assets being frozen and the club operating under a special licence from the UK government pretty well, earning a comfortable 3-1 win at Norwich City. Sunday's clash back at Stamford Bridge against Newcastle was not quite as pedestrian as they'd have hoped.

Eddie Howe's men arrived in west London full of confidence – only Liverpool have accumulated more points per game in the Premier League in 2022 – but this was their biggest test in recent weeks, a chance to show that they're not just pretenders working their way up the league.

Newcastle made a good account of themselves in a performance that seemed very unlike Howe and co, hassling and harrying Chelsea all afternoon long and looking more at home than their hosts.

It didn't help Thomas Tuchel that first choice right wing-backs Reece James and Cesar Azpilicueta were both injured, forcing him to select a slightly unfamiliar back four. Trevoh Chalobah and Malang Sarr started as the full-backs and Chelsea looked dysfunctional from the off.

There was an obvious back-and-forth between the fans in the stands (largely revolving around Mike Ashley and Boris Johnson, go and search for clips on social media if you haven't heard), and that's where the majority of the first-half action resided, with a VAR check for a possible red card against Kai Havertz the only notable talking point on the pitch.

The second half wasn't much different, with Newcastle consistently looking the more likely side to break the deadlock.

Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic
Havertz was Sunday's protagonist / Craig Mercer/MB Media/GettyImages

Chelsea had been a little fortunate that Havertz didn't receive his marching orders in the opening 45, while they were even luckier that Chalobah's clumsy challenge on Jacob Murphy in his own box similarly was overlooked by both the referee and VAR. The Blues had two pivotal moments go their way, but neither revolved around them attempting to score a goal.

Havertz's 76th minute header should have tested Martin Dubravka, but the stopper - who had largely been an onlooker for much of the afternoon - was untroubled by the forward's tame effort.

Chelsea may not have deserved to outright lose, though they definitely were not the better of the two teams on the day. But as the old cliche goes, the best teams will find a way to win when the chips are down, and the Blues are the reigning champions of the world.

Jorginho - who was awful to this point - played the perfect ball over the Newcastle back line for Havertz to meet, and this time he made no mistake, slotting past Dubravka to give Chelsea a last-minute lead.

This may have been Chelsea's ugliest result of the season and it couldn't have come in a more fitting week for them. With all the talk over matchday budgets, transfer embargoes and even the club going bust, they needed a victory anyway anyhow. In the end, maybe a win in this manner was needed to galvanise the club again.

While this is the end of Chelsea's week, it's certainly not the end of this story. Director of football Petr Cech revealed pre-match that the club is planning ahead only on a day-by-day basis, and couldn't give guarantees of what state Chelsea will be in come the end of the season. Today's remit for fans is to simply enjoy the win.

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