Another home game, another home defeat. It was Nottingham Forest last time out, it was Unai Emery’s Villa here.
While this was a pretty even match in terms of possession, it was Villa who were consistently savvier in midfield and whose players looked like they vaguely knew one another. The game’s only goal, scored by Ollie Watkins in the 73rd minute, came from a Thiago Silva error and a blistering counter-attack.
The return of Moises Caicedo from the start and, after nine months, of Armando Broja from the bench offered a lift for Chelsea’s home support, but positive takeaways from another torrid home result were few and far between.
Many were aggrieved when referee Jarred Gillett upgraded Malo Gusto’s yellow card to a red in the 58th minute. The right-back had been explosive down his flank, but his follow-through onto Lucas Digne’s ankle was dangerous and he was rightly sent off.
Discipline was also an issue for Chelsea’ new struggling centre-forward Nicolas Jackson. It remains an issue, rather. Jackson was told by Mauricio Pochettino on Friday that he must stop collecting needless yellow cards. Instead of taking the advice on board, he stood too close when Emiliano Martinez took a free-kick, was given his fifth booking in six games, and now has a suspension.
And Jackson found similar difficulty in imposing himself up front, often run off the ball and thwarted by Martinez when through one-on-one for a first-half chance he really ought to have put away.
That opportunity was made by an exceptional line-breaking pass by Mykhailo Mudryk, yet the Ukrainian also endured another frustrating outing at Stamford Bridge. His searing pace and talent are without question, but the 22-year-old loses the ball far too often. Sterling, in particular, grew frustrated with this at times.
Chelsea did have the ball in the net first, when Sterling crossed for Axel Disasi to head home from a nicely worked short corner, but Disasi was one of three men in blue stood in an offside position. Villa, the cannier side, stepped forward and the goal was chalked off.
While Chelsea created chances throughout the match, they were seldom clear openings. Villa had the better opportunities, and Pochettino was indebted to goalkeeper Robert Sanchez for ensuring the away side didn’t win by more. His stops to deny volleys by Digne and Nicolo Zaniolo were especially impressive.
Chelsea have now taken just one point from meetings with Forest, Bournemouth and Villa in their last three fixtures. Increasingly, there is no such thing as a favourable game for the Blues anymore. They were undone again.