Despite winning the Women’s FA Cup just two weeks ago a lot of questions are already being asked of Chelsea and their recent performances.
After such a dominant display over close rivals Arsenal, many expected this to be a benchmark for the Blues as a sign of further things to come.
But without a win in three matches, it seems panic has set in and fingers are already being pointed.
There was a lot of talk over whether Chelsea would better last season’s Champions League finish, and go on to win to win the one trophy Emma Hayes has been yearning for.
However, the exact opposite of this happened while in Germany under the lights of the AOK Stadium.
Wolfsburg bulldozed their way to a 4-0 win, and with Juventus also winning 4-0 against Servette FCCF, Chelsea were dumped from the competition and failed to make it past the group stages.
The shock of Chelsea’s exit is less about defeat to German giants Wolfsburg, but more about the fact that the English side were initially in control of the group but still weren’t able to qualify.
Prior to their European upset last night, the Blues drew 0-0 with Juventus earlier in the campaign, and were then handed a surprise loss in the Women’s Super League.
Reading snubbed the reigning champions of a crucial three points, allowing Arsenal to extend their lead by four at the top of the table.
All of these disappointing results came after Chelsea won their third FA Cup title. But is the level of scrutiny the club is currently under justified?
The pressure of champions
Since Chelsea won their third WSL title and the League Cup in 2020, the expectancy of bringing in silverware rose dramatically.
Hayes then guided her team to win another league title, the Community Shield, Continental Cup, and FA Cup — securing the domestic quadruple and becoming the first English side to ever achieve this accolade.
So as it stands, Chelsea are the reigning champions of four tournaments and yet, are receiving huge criticism.
Coming off the back of a gold rush season, and with one of the most talented squads in the world, they looked untouchable. But expectations were higher than ever before, and with high expectations comes an increased level of disappointment when things don’t go to plan.
The West Londoners came agonisingly close to winning their first Champions League trophy last season, but were thwarted by Barcelona in the final. The narrative then suggested, if they’d reached the final before, they could immediately do it again and perhaps go on to win the competition.
As seen in both men’s and women’s football time and time again, this isn’t how the game works. Winning a title or reaching a final serves little indication towards how a team will perform the following season.
Other teams are constantly improving and studying dangerous rivals, like Chelsea, in order to correct mistakes made against them in the past.
This is exactly what Wolfsburg did. The She-Wolves were hammered 5-1 on aggregate by the Blues in the Champions League last season, but used this to come back this term with a new approach.
After a 3-3 draw in their first meeting, Wolfsburg revisited the fixture and went in for the kill. The Frauen-Bundesliga giants are also two-time European champions — so they weren’t viewed as an underdog team by any means. But perhaps they deserve a new level of credit for making so many people doubt Chelsea’s pedigree.
Ebbs and flows
Chelsea are not the first team in the world to hit a dip in form after winning a trophy or two.
Arsenal are yet to win another title since they were crowned WSL champions in 2019. In fact, their form last season left a lot to be desired and they found themselves out of the title race very early on, before finishing nine points behind winners Chelsea.
This term, the Gunners have emerged firing from all cylinders and currently hold a four-point lead at the top of the league table. They started off their 2021/22 season by beating Chelsea in the opening weekend.
On the other end of the spectrum, Manchester City are currently struggling with their form, despite winning the FA Cup last year and finishing two points behind the Blues in the league.
They are currently sixth in the WSL and, as it stands, are not in contention for a title challenge this season.
Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City all boast world class squads, but it’s unrealistic to expect nothing but high-scoring wins on every outing.
Following the defeat in Germany, Hayes took responsibility for the outcome of the match but also stressed her players were “sick” with worry over the escalating Covid-19 cases in the UK at the moment.
Nine men’s Premier League matches were called off this week, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reintroduced social distancing and compulsory face covering regulations due to the rapid-spreading Omicron variant.
This is a worrying time for everyone and anxiety is high. Even footballers, who it seems many often forget are human too, are being impacted by this new devastating coronavirus outbreak.
As far as Chelsea Women go, there is not enough evidence to suggest any major changes need to be applied on Hayes’ behalf. The Blues are still in the running for a third consecutive WSL trophy and still boast the title of reigning domestic quadruple winners.
Perhaps after some much-needed respite from a busy schedule and the relief of being able to spend time with family over Christmas, the insatiable Chelsea will return to kickstart 2022 with dominance.