Timo Werner’s first-half strike saw Chelsea take a small yet significant step in the race for Champions League football next season. The fourth-placed Blues eked out a narrow 1-0 win over their closest rivals West Ham at the London Stadium on Saturday to consolidate their place in the top four.
Chelsea dominated the first half, limiting the hosts to just the odd counter-attack and set-piece. The Blues took a deserved lead as half-time approached when Werner coolly slotted home in the 43rd minute.
Thomas Tuchel's men then demonstrated their recently-acquired defensive resilience in the second half, seeing off a spirited West Ham charge. But their job was made easier after the hosts were reduced to ten men late on when Fabian Balbuena was sent off for going in rashly on Ben Chilwell.
This hard-fought win sees Chelsea open up a three-point gap in the league standings over their London rivals. The Hammers, meanwhile, have it all to do if they are to overhaul the Blues and finish in the top four this season.
On that note, let's have a look at the five major talking points from the game.
#1 Moyes vs Tuchel: A battle of the Premier League’s in-form managers
Although they are in different stages of their tenures, both David Moyes and Thomas Tuchel have earned plaudits for the way they have performed at the helm of affairs at their respective clubs this season.
Moyes’ men have exceeded expectations and find themselves in the top-four race in the final stages of the league campaign. Meanwhile, Tuchel has virtually transformed Chelsea after taking over midway through the season and could even lift his first trophy with the club soon.
Interestingly, ahead of their clash at the London Stadium, both Moyes and Tuchel seem to have independently arrived at a three-at-the-back formation as their preferred style of play, which set the game up as an intriguing tactical battle.
Furthermore, while only Manchester City have earned more points at home than West Ham this season, Chelsea boasted an unbeaten record away from home under Tuchel, which added another level of interest to the game.
#2 Timo Werner makes a timely goalscoring return for Chelsea
While he has been unable to hit the goalscoring heights he managed at RB Leipzig, Timo Werner, with his willing and intelligent running, has made a significant attacking contribution at Chelsea. That is possibly why the German continues to be named in the Blues’ starting lineup ahead of the likes of top-scorer Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud.
However, questions persisted over Werner’s ability to find the net consistently in his new surroundings even as Chelsea continued to churn out positive results over the course of the season.
As such, it would have been a huge relief for both Werner and his manager when the former finally managed to bag his first goal in 15 games for club and country. In the process, the Chelsea striker ended a goal drought that lasted over two months when he put his side in the lead towards the end of the first half.
While he spurned a glorious chance to double his side’s advantage in the second period, Werner will hope his goal would open the floodgates as he looks to end a difficult season with a flourish.
#3 Injuries and suspensions could affect West Ham’s top-four hopes
Consistently eye-catching performances from many players in the West Ham ranks during the season has allowed the manager to name a largely settled side throughout the campaign, which has played a huge part in their sustained success.
Unfortunately for the Hammers, their thin squad, depleted by a few absences, seem to have caught up with them at the business end of the season.
While injuries forced the influential Declan Rice, Michail Antonio and Aaron Cresswell out for extended periods, the Hammers were also missing Craig Dawson due to suspension. That meant they went into their clash against Chelsea with a significantly weakened roster of players to choose from.
Their woes compounded further when replacement centre-back Balbuena received his marching orders in the second half as West Ham lost a centre-half for the second game in a row.
In the other camp, Chelsea boast a largely injury-free squad. They were not only able to make six changes from their midweek goalless draw, but they also put out a side that was close to their strongest possible XI.
West Ham will hope to welcome their missing players sooner rather than later, as the race for the top four heats up. Meanwhile, Chelsea would be thankful to have an injury-free squad, with an FA Cup final and a UEFA Champions League semi-final on the horizon alongside the Premier League run-in.
#4 Thomas Tuchel continues to impress as Chelsea boss
While there are regular discussions about the transformative effect a January signing can have on a team, Chelsea seem to have made one of the signings of the season when they appointed Thomas Tuchel as their manager in late January.
The German has made an immediate impact since arriving in England, propelling a struggling Chelsea side up the Premier League table while also guiding them to a Champions League semi-final and an FA Cup final since taking over.
Improved defensive displays have been a hallmark of Tuchel’s Chelsea, as the Blues have kept a string of clean sheets across all competitions. They have claimed a number of impressive scalps along the way and were unbeaten for nearly three months before suffering their first loss under the German in early April.
With a couple of trophies to win and a Champions League berth to secure, the Chelsea faithful are entitled to be extremely optimistic about their team's prospects as an eventful season nears its conclusion.
#5 The Premier League's top-four race heats up
While a London derby always makes for an enjoyable fixture, this particular game between West Ham and Chelsea carried added significance. That was because Chelsea were occupying the crucial fourth spot in the league table, while their London rivals were leading the chasing pack.
Only goal difference separated fourth and fifth going into the game, with Liverpool’s draw against Newcastle earlier in the day giving an added incentive to both sides as the winner would be able to eke out a tiny yet potentially crucial gap between themselves and the rest.
As it turned out, it was Chelsea who managed to land the crucial blow and open up a three-point gap between themselves and the Hammers with just five games left in the season. That has put the Blues in pole position to secure the final Champions League spot.
With Liverpool breathing down their necks, West Ham would look to tighten up their act come the end of the season, having performed admirably thus far to stay in touching distance of Champions League football.