It was always going to be tough for Aston Villa to get anything out of a trip to Stamford Bridge. And despite a performance that can quite frankly be described as "not that bad, really," Villa still got beat 3-0 for the second successive weekend.
It was Chelsea on the front foot early on and the hosts took the lead just inside of seven minutes. The hosts released Willian on a through ball who put a shot on target saved by Guzan. Unfortunately for Villa, that rebound came right to Willian who played the ball a bit behind square to an unmarked Oscar to fire home from the edge of the six yard box. Andi Weimann was marking Willian for much of his run — that was half of the problem — but the real issue was Philippe Senderos opting to mark the goal line rather than Oscar. Hit a bit on the counter, Paul Lambert's men were a goal down before they could really get into the game.
Which, in and of itself, was a bit of a shame because Villa did well for the next 20-30 minutes. They passed the ball around (on the ground too!) and while the Claret and Blues weren't overly successful at creating clear-cut chances, they held their own and consolidated the match following Chelsea's opener. The hosts, however, enjoyed a strong period of play over the final 10 minutes of the half but Villa's defense held strong to get to the halftime interval just 1-0 down.
Villa came out from the break and for all intents and purposes controlled play for the majority of the first 15 minutes. Nathan Baker had a header over the bar from a free kick while Ashley Westwood continued to deliver poor balls from set pieces. When playing away to what might be the best side in the world right now (yeah, I said it), you just absolutely have to be solid and a threat on set pieces. Despite having quite a few opportunities early in the second half, Villa never threatened.
And they paid the price for it. After a short spell of possession, César "Dave" Azpilicueta put in a cross from the edge of the 18 that, well, found Diego Costa on 59 minutes. You can guess the result. (Or I can tell you: 2-0 to Chelsea.) Some might argue that Nathan Baker could've done a little more to keep Costa from getting his head to it but quite frankly, Baker was never keeping football's best form striker from scoring there. It was really a sublime connection that put the match away.
Charles N'Zogbia and Darren Bent came on shortly thereafter in an effort to get something going towards goal and Alan Hutton put Villa's only shot on target around 70 minutes when he somehow beat two defenders but fired straight at (literally straight at) Thibault Courtois.
If it wasn't before, it was game over on 79 minutes when Chelsea increased their winning margin to 3-0. The hosts found Cesc Fàbregas wide on the break who in turn found Diego Costa. The Spanish striker made Senderos fall down before firing at Guzan who made a nice save. Unfortunately for Villa though, the rebound careened off of Aly Cissokho right into the path of Willian who tapped in to the open net for 3-0.
I then turned the match off but Villa's Twitter feed tells me that Guzan made a nice save on Loïc Rémy on 86 minutes.
In truth, it was always going to be a difficult fixture. In six league matches now, Chelsea have beaten five different teams by at least a two-goal margin (Manchester City, arguably their only other legitimate title opponents, having drawn with them). They might win the title by 20 points. And Villa needed to play perfectly to have a chance and hey, maybe things turn out differently if Nathan Baker was actually capable of putting a header on target.
Defensively, despite giving up three, I can't have too many qualms with the goals conceded. Ron Vlaar would have made a real nice difference but two of Chelsea's goals came from the break — while the other was generated from a cross coming from just outside the 18. For the most part, Chelsea struggled to break Villa down when they had long spells of possession and that's a trend that should it continue will see Villa quite fine against at least 60% of the clubs in the league.
Aston Villa sit on 10 points through six matches and will end the weekend in sixth place, regardless of the result of this evening's match at the Emirates. A home match with Manchester City beckons this weekend before an international break that signals a bit of a change for Villa's schedule. Early on, there seem to be three teams even capable of winning the title — Arsenal, Chelsea, and City. After the break? Everton, QPR, and Spurs — three matches that aren't the easiest run in the world — are followed by a grand opportunity for Lambert's side as they'll play 11 matches where Southampton and Manchester United are the only two somewhat good sides in the run.
Villa didn't suck. They actually played pretty well for their abilities. That's just not enough with Chelsea this year.