Four things we learnt from Chelsea's defeat to Aston Villa
Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

With only five points on the board for the Blues, the Chelsea fanbase has a severe concern for their season prospects, particularly given their upcoming fixtures in October and November.

On paper, it would be expected that the Londoners would be able to get a result at home against Aston Villa, especially as the visitors had experienced defeat themselves in mid-week against Legia Warszawa in the Europa Conference League.

But it would be the team wearing Claret and Blue that would come away from Stamford Bridge with the spoils, with a game-winning goal from Ollie Watkins in the  73rd minute against ten-man Chelsea, who had Malo Gusto shown a straight red earlier in the match.

In a tale of two strikers, we consider the four things we learned from this Sunday afternoon fixture:

  • More questions than answers for Chelsea in a narrow defeat

In what felt like a carbon copy of their 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest in their last home match in the league, Chelsea were unable to find any cutting edge at the top of the pitch.

With a team that feels in-balanced having Levi Colwill playing in an un-natural position and Enzo Fernandez being pushed high up the pitch, it seems that Pochettino still cannot work out how to set up his side, nor knows his best XI.

As to why the Argentine has strayed from his favoured 4-2-3-1, which was so effective in pre-season, cannot merely be put down to the long-term injury of Christopher Nkunku. 

The home side didn't play particularly badly and on a different day, could have come away from the match with three points, especially considering a harsh, VAR-assisted red card for Chelsea's right-back Gusto, with 30 minutes of the fixture still to play. 

  • Jackson sees yellow for the 5th time

For a striker to have already been shown five yellow cards in a season before we even reach October, is quite remarkable. But this is the reality that Nicolas Jackson faces after being booked again this afternoon. 

The Senegalese striker is undoubtedly a talented footballer, but one who is raw and clearly lacks discipline - with four of the five yellows being awarded for dissent towards the referee. Today's booking sees the Chelsea forward forced to miss the next match through suspension, which creates further issues for his manager.

A brief cameo appearance from Armando Broja will be a welcome relief for Pochettino, but the Albanian has been on the sidelines for many months, so an enforced start for their game against Fulham would not have been the ideal return as the player looks to work up to full match-sharpness. 

  • Emery picks up a vital win on the road

Unai Emery will be a relieved man to be leaving London with all three points. His team have been fairly inconsistent away from Villa Park so far this season, with heavy defeats at St James Park and Anfield as particular notable examples of their recent struggles when not playing in front of their home fans.

With a surprising defeat in Poland in mid-week, the Spaniard would have been fearful of further issues when coming up against a Chelsea side that had a point to prove. But a determined effort from Emery's men in the second half was enough to triumph by a single goal in this hard-fought contest. 

  • Watkins opens his account for the season in style

Ollie Watkins in particular will be the most buoyant of all Villa's players, having scored the match-winner and subsequently his first goal of the 2023/24 season. 

Having not scored in his previous five appearances in the league and with the emerging presence of Jhon Duran, Watkins' place in the starting line-up did not look assured unless he could find the back of the net quickly. For most of the game, he was unable to find the breakthrough, in part due to the excellent performance of Robert Sanchez in Chelsea's net and it looked as though his drought would continue.

But the Englishmen was able to get his much-needed goal, with a convincing strike from a tight angle in the 73rd minute match. the quality of the finish did not signify a striker out of form, but his incredibly enthusiastic celebration demonstrated the forward's relief.