What has happened to Chelsea?
The 2014-15 Premier League was dominated by Chelsea from start to finish, but José Mourinho’s current team looks a pale shadow of the one that claimed his third title for The Blues. The main question surrounding Stamford Bridge is – how has this happened to a team of Chelsea’s calibre?
The blame has been quite rightly been placed on the shoulders of the Chelsea defence. José Mourinho is a manager who has always taken pride in his teams’ defensive qualities. Last season saw a solid back four, with the captain John Terry performing like he had many more years left as part of the first team picture at Stamford Bridge. From the opening game of this campaign against Swansea, Terry has struggled to lead a team that only lost a total of three matches during last season’s Premier League. Although there were signs of defensive inadequacies in the Champions League, every team were inferior to The Blues when it came to England’s top flight.
The full-backs also played a key part in the success of last season, with Branislav Ivanovi? and César Azpilicueta the consistent choices throughout the season. Mourinho had constantly praised the Spaniard, saying: “Football is not just about the pure talent. Football is also about character and personality, and Azpilicueta has all those traces of a winning personality.” He was the main reason that Brazilian left-back Felipe Luis left the club in the summer after making only 15 league appearances all season. Both full-backs have relaxed too much so far this term, with very little competition for position in that particular area. Ivanovi?’s season to date can be summarised by the way Southampton winger Dusan Tadic passed him time and time again during Saturday’s outing at the Bridge.
One of the reasons Chelsea’s defence only conceded a league best 32 goals is the because of the protection that the back four were afforded by Nemanja Mati?. The Serbian used his size and power to outwit many of his opponents, but has lost his tactical awareness this season. On far too many occasions already, both centre-halves have had to step out of position because Mati? isn’t there to cover. Mourinho ‘double-substituted’ him after Saturday’s game against Southampton, taking the holding midfielder off again after only 30 minutes of action. The Blues’ manager has made some very bold moves which; in the long run, may affect the dressing room.
However, it is not just the side’s defensive frailties that have been the cause of the team’s downfall. Many attacking players have not stepped up in any way, shape or form. The obvious name that springs to mind is Eden Hazard, who has yet to register a goal this season. The current PFA Player of the Year has also only made two assists this campaign, with the form of last year now little more than a memory. Numerous goals came from the left hand side of play that the Belgian made his own, with these moves lighting up Stamford Bridge in an unbeaten home display throughout 2014-15 in the league. Constant lack-lustre performances from Chelsea’s number 10 raises questions over when he can pick up his performances once again.
Once the transfer window closed, Chelsea fans were pleased with the attacking options that they had to choose from. Unfortunately for the supporters though, it has not turned out the way they expected. This is mainly because of the dramatic demise of Diego Costa. In the words of Alan Shearer, the “wind-up merchant” prefers to start a fight rather than putting a ball into the back of the net. This was clear to see as his antics led to Gabriel lashing out in a Beckham-esque manner, with the defender cynically kicking Costa’s shin. This reputation for nuisance is well-renowned and as such, leaves a negative vibe throughout the dressing room.
The other attacking options are not of the quality required for a Premier League winning side, with Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao completing the spots. Loic Remy has become an impact player at the club and it is very unlikely that his bit-part status will change. If the last eight league games are anything to go by, Radamel Falcao is a risk that has not paid off. Although he has registered a league goal this term, it is fair to say that the spark is still not there from his vibrant days at FC Porto and Atlético Madrid. If Diego Costa cannot return to his 20+ goals a season form, it is unlikely that Remy or Falcao can pick up the pieces.
Mourinho was very bold during his post-match interview after his team lost at 3-1 to Southampton at Stamford Bridge, stating: “If they sack me they sack the best manager this club had.” Who knows what is going through the head of owner Roman Abramovich but only time will tell whether Chelsea can return to form which saw them lift their fourth Premier League title.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Arturo Miguel
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