It happened. It actually happened. Not only did Chelsea score a goal, but they actually won a game.
The Blues ran out 1-0 winners against Brighton & Hove Albion in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening, with Nicolas Jackson’s second-half strike enough to steer Chelsea to victory.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
Cole Palmer was given the chance to strut his stuff from the start against Brighton, playing behind Jackson as the latest player to audition for the role of Christopher Nkunku’s understudy.
Having watched Enzo Fernandez struggle in such an advanced role in recent weeks, Chelsea fans were keen to see what Palmer could offer as a more-natural fit for the position, and the summer signing did not disappoint whatsoever.
Palmer grabbed the assist for Jackson’s goal (as well as a harshly disallowed second), and it was in this moment that fans saw the true quality he brings.
After collecting a pass on the edge of the box, Palmer took several small steps to adjust his feet and delayed playing the ball until the perfect second, when he found Jackson’s run into the box. It was a patience, a control that Chelsea have lacked this season.
Having played Levi Colwill at left-back for the past few Premier League games, Mauricio Pochettino went into overdrive on Wednesday and named three natural left-backs in his starting lineup.
Ben Chilwell took up the natural role, with Marc Cucurella playing on the right and Ian Maatsen playing as a right-sided attacking midfielder as Pochettino sought both an answer to a mounting injury crisis and a solution to his team’s unconvincing performances.
It was a solid outing for all three. Chilwell was his usual self making runs from deep, while Maatsen’s intelligence and ability to adjust to a new role continues to impress.
Few players entered the game under more pressure than Cucurella. The 25-year-old’s only minutes this season have come in the Carabao Cup, with Pochettino favouring Chilwell, Maatsen and even Colwill in his position so far this season.
Given a chorus of boos from the away fans, Cucurella clearly looked riled up and went on a destructive tear which yielded both good and bad results.
While his quality on the ball left something to be desired, there was a period in the second half in which Cucurella was genuinely unbeatable, throwing himself at everything and standing out for both his passion and his ability.
It wasn’t a perfect performance from Cucurella, but it proved that he does have something to offer this squad. Will it be enough to save him from a January exit? Only time will tell.
There were two instances early in the game of Mykhailo Mudryk breezing past a defender and then woefully overhitting a routine pass out of play just when it looked like Chelsea were on the cusp of creating something.
Despite that frustrating start, Mudryk remained keen to get involved and, as has been the trend over the past few games, started to flash signs of the quality which convinced Chelsea to spend so much money on him.
Mudryk was part of many of Chelsea’s best moments, clearly benefiting from having some extra support on the left side of the pitch, and his willingness to take shots on goal showed a determination which has endeared him to compassionate supporters.
There’s a long way to go for Mudryk, but the signs are there. Pochettino may be getting through to him.
Having been forced to accept a limited role this season, Lesley Ugochukwu was given the chance to impress from the start against Brighton, but the young midfielder wasn’t at his best.
Isolated and exploited in the first half, Ugochukwu did not look like his dominant self as he was forced to lunge into tackles, earning himself a yellow card from the referee.
Ugochukwu was fortunate to stay on the pitch when, while on that yellow, he caught the ankle of Carlos Baleba late in the first half. It was a challenge that definitely deserved a second yellow and perhaps even warranted a straight red.
With no VAR in operation, Chelsea were fortunate that the officials did not see Ugochukwu’s challenge and the midfielder was allowed to continue.