Newcastle United are in a lot of trouble without Callum Wilson
This could be a long, long eight weeks for Newcastle United.
Callum Wilson could be sidelined until April, and somehow Steve Bruce’s side must claw their way up the Premier League table without him.
United just aren’t the same team without 10-goal Wilson leading the line – and that was underlined at Stamford Bridge tonight.
Chelsea won 2-0 thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud and Timo Werner, and Dwight Gayle had a largely forgettable stint up front in the absence of Wilson, who limped off against Southampton last weekend with a hamstring problem.
Wilson’s absence has seemingly left his team hamstrung, and it could get worse before it gets better for Newcastle, who face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Fulham’s win over Everton last night means United are just seven points above the relegation zone – and Scott Parker’s side have a game in hand.
The 17th-placed club, which was supposed to be looking up the table this season following the arrivals last summer of Wilson and Ryan Fraser, is in a depressingly familiar position just above the relegation zone.
Chelsea won the game inside the first 45 minutes. They got the better of a lethargic visiting team which only picked up the pace after going two goals down.
There were three other changes to the starting XI at Stamford Bridge, all of them enforced, following the loss of Fabian Schar and Javier Manquillo to injuries and Jeff Hendrick to a one-game suspension.
The return of Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark allowed Bruce to push Isaac Hayden back into midfield, where he lined up alongside new signing Joe Willock.
Emil Krafth, in for Manquillo, had a tough, tough start. Chelsea looked to play down Newcastle’s right, and Krafth had to contend with Werner and the over-lapping Marcus Alonso running at him in the first 10 minutes.
United spent much of the first half on the back foot, and they had Lascelles to thank for a superb challenge on Tammy Abraham as he lined up to shoot. The Chelsea striker was soon forced off injured.
There was a let off for Newcastle midway through the half when Werner shot wide, but Chelsea’s breakthrough wasn’t long in coming. Werner broke down the left and his crossed as pushed to Giroud, on for Abraham, by Karl Darlow. Giroud beat Darlow with a first-time finish.
It soon got worse. United failed to deal with a corner, and Werner swept the ball home at the far post to end a Premier League goal drought dating back to November 7.
That’s how the half ended, though Thomas Tuchel will have wondered how his team wasn’t further ahead at the break given their dominance.
Newcastle were better after the break, and Willock put a good chance wide. Joelinton replaced the ineffective Gayle midway through the half. Ryan Fraser and Andy Carroll followed Joelinton on to the pitch, but the game had been lost inside the first 45 minutes.
And United will have to play much, much better if they are to have any hope of getting out of trouble in the coming weeks.