After an utterly miserable start to the Premier League season, Chelsea need something special when they meet new foes Brighton & Hove Albion in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side have won just two of their seven games so far this year, with one of those victories coming against League Two’s AFC Wimbledon in the second round of this competition.
Clearly, that’s not good enough, but Wednesday’s game is the perfect chance to turn things around.
Simply put, everything has been going wrong.
Chelsea are dominating possession of the ball but (still) aren’t scoring goals, which takes its toll on any team’s confidence even before you factor in how they haven’t found clean sheets easy to come by either.
A major injury crisis has limited the ways in which Pochettino can respond but concerns over his attempts to find solutions have left fans divided on when, or indeed if, things will ever turn around.
The fact that this is not a Premier League game and rather a third-round tie in a cup competition means Pochettino will rotate his squad. He’ll give minutes to the hungry fringe players and, because of which players are likely to come in, will be forced to deviate away from his recent defence-first strategy.
With limited defenders available over the coming weeks, Pochettino may have to start a natural left-back like Ben Chilwell or Ian Maatsen here – a move which will immediately see Chelsea’s focus turn to attack.
Enzo Fernandez is likely to be rested, which will open the door for someone like Cole Palmer or Noni Madueke. While neither can match the Argentine’s passing ability, both are more suited to the attacking position in which Fernandez has played recently. It’s a more natural fit, and that’s the key.
Even further forward in attack, we could see minutes for the likes of Armando Broja or Deivid Washington in place of Nicolas Jackson, who will be suspended for the next Premier League game. There’ll be a new dynamic about Chelsea’s attack, and that’s exactly what Pochettino needs.
While the pressure is never truly off a Chelsea boss’ shoulders, there’s no denying the fact that seeing a weakened squad knocked out of the Carabao Cup early doors is neither a massive shock nor a major controversy. These things happen to clubs up and down the country, so it’s almost like a free-hit for Pochettino to try something new.
Pochettino has confirmed that he expects Chilwell to see some minutes against Brighton, having failed to start either of the team’s last two Premier League games.
Broja is only fit for around 30 minutes of action and so will likely be restricted to a substitute role for this one.
Goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic could be in line for a debut, while fans will hope to see more minutes for promising youngsters Cole Palmer and Lesley Ugochukwu, who have impressed in limited opportunities so far this year.