Are this off-colour duo Chelsea's biggest problem?
Last season Chelsea were undeniably the blueprint for success in the Premier League, they started like a house on fire and a huge part of the reason was some astute deals early on in the transfer market. Jose Mourinho did his business quickly thus giving his squad a settled pre-season.
Eden Hazard had an impressive season as well and finally looked the player that many thought they had signed for £32 million in 2012 from French Ligue 1 side Lille. The quick Belgian scooped both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season awards as he scored 14 league goals and assisted 9 times as well as creating 99 chances in the 2014-15 Premier League season which saw Chelsea end up being crowned Premier League champions.
The 2015-16 season has been the complete opposite to last season’s campaign though. The London club have struggled to replicate the previous campaign’s form and have looked disjointed, jaded and void of real substance. They have already lost nine Premier League games, having only lost three league games in the whole of last season.
Uncharacteristically for a Mourinho side, they have shipped goals. Chelsea usually pride themselves on being stubborn and hard to break down, but this season they conceded 26 goals in the opening 16 games. This has contributed to only four wins, three draws and the very damaging nine league loses.
Things have not been much better at the other end of the pitch either, with only 18 goals in 16 league games the complete opposite of last season’s free-scoring style of football which saw the “Blues” netting 73 goals in 38 games.
The Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa Effect
Many were surprised to see the former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder roll up at Stamford Bridge last Summer, but his relationship with the antagonistic Diego Costa proved to be something that tipped the league title in Mourinho’s favour. Costa was unplayable at times and the Premier League experience that Fabregas had from his time at the Emirates was invaluable.
Costa has had his injury problems since his move from Atletico Madrid, last season he only managed 26 games in the league but still had a return of 20 league goals. When you throw in Fabregas’ 18 assists, you have a deadly duo. For large parts of the league campaign the likes of Fabregas, Hazard and Costa were untouchable, the sort of form that conjured up a notion that they may replicate Arsenal’s unprecedented invincibles season of 2003-04, it was not to be, but they still comfortably strolled to another league title under Mourinho.
However, the form of the “deadly duo” this season has been inconsistent at best. Costa has only managed 3 league goals in 13 games, Fabregas is yet to get off the mark. Fabregas is creating chances but nowhere near the rate he did last season. He has conjured up 25 opportunities in the first 16 games compared to the staggering 93 from 34 league games last term.
It is plain to see that for Chelsea to get back on track this season Fabregas, Costa and Hazard will be key. They already find themselves considerably behind the leading pack and will face a massive battle to get into the top four. One thing going in their favour is that every team looks like being culpable for dropping points on any given weekend.
The next transfer window is just around the corner and many expect to see new additions to the Chelsea squad. Unlike any other season they seem to be picking up numerous injuries. John Terry has had an ongoing ankle problem, Ramires and Radamel Falcao have had muscular injuries that have kept them sidelined. It is how Mourinho addresses this in January that will be interesting, they do not have a thin squad but refreshing the team with one or two new faces could reinvigorate the current players.
Chelsea are 20 points off league leaders Leicester who looks to have an unassailable gap from the league champions, who by their manager’s own admission has written off their chances of a top four finish let alone retaining their title. It remains to be seen if he will see out this season, which is his third season at Stamford Bridge in his second spell at the club.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Nukman Aqmar.