Chelsea’s form has plummeted in recent weeks after defeat to Newcastle United and draws against the likes of Southampton, Brentford and Reading.
A massive 16 points behind leaders Manchester United in the Premier League, second place seems the best they can hope for, however defeat at Manchester City when the teams clash this weekend could also end any hopes of that.
So after a positive start to the season, where did it all go wrong for the champions of Europe?
Chelsea began the new season with the chance to win no less than seven trophies. With young blood brought in over the summer in the form of Eden Hazard, Marko Marin, Oscar and Cesar Azpilicueta, The Blues set about challenging for more success after last year’s triumph in the FA Cup and European Cup.
However, after being outclassed in Monaco by Radamel Falcao as Atletico Madrid stormed to success in the Super Cup, Chelsea were knocked out of the Champions League group stages leaving manager Roberto Di Matteo facing the sack.
Chelsea were going strong in November and were just four points from the top of the Premier League, looking strong and playing some impressive football.
But the sacking of Di Matteo proved to be the turning point. Roman Abramovich insisted it was time for change after their European exit, much to the disgust of numerous Chelsea supporters.
Although it was a sacking that looked destined to happen, the juncture at which Abramovich did so, just months after the Italian had delivered the owner’s most cherished prize, proved to be disastrous. Fans were angry and rightly so.
His replacement did little to help.
With a flurry of experienced managers seen as potential arrivals at Stamford Bridge, it was Rafael Benitez, the ex-Liverpool gaffer who had once proudly claimed “he would never join Chelsea”, was the man in the hot seat, set with the task of turning around the club’s poor form.
However, things did not go to plan. Benitez was booed off after home games, which no doubt will have affected the players and their performances. The fact that Benitez was only given an interim position also highlighted the uncertainty around the club.
Whenever a new manager is appointed, all reputations are erased allowing each player an equal chance to impress the new man in charge. But the appointment of Benitez as an interim coach may not have filled the players with confidence. What the players need to remember is that they are here to represent the club and its history - not the manager.
Throwing away a 2-0 lead with minutes remaining against Reading, a relegation threatened team, and having to claw back from a goal down in the dying stages to draw against Brentford, a side in the third division of English football, can not be blamed solely on Benitez. The players should be taking the responsibility.
No matter how hostile the crowd is, no matter how un-supporting the fans are to your manager, as a player you are paid to play up to your potential, and that’s where Chelsea have been lacking.
A lack of desire to fight for the club has seen defensive fragilities, leading to the loss of vital goals at the end of games as they throw away points from winning positions.
So are the players handed too much power at Stamford Bridge? The trio of Frank Lampard, John Terry, and Didier Drogba have been seen as such influential figures at the club that a run of poor performances by these individuals, often means it is the manager that takes the blame.
Abramovich needs to ensure the players fight for their manager and place in the team, regardless of their status.
For Chelsea to get their season back on track and secure a top-four finish, they need to forget who is in charge, and concentrate on goings on on the pitch.
The recent sale of Raul Meireles and the loan move of Michael Essien to Real Madrid were surprising. Knowing that John Obi Mikel would be away at the AFCON, it left Chelsea with only two recognised defensive midfielders in the form of Frank Lampard and Ramires, with Oriol Romeu out with a long-term injury.
This lack of depth can be attributed to Chelsea’s recent slump. With few options that can be thrown on to sure up the midfield and see out a game, the stick Benitez has suffered is unfair.
Fernando Torres’ form also hasn’t helped the new manager. Unable to rediscover the goal scoring touch from his time at Liverpool, he has failed to make a sufficient impact at Chelsea despite the arrival of Benitez.
When the owner is expecting a manager to challenge on so many fronts, you need to let him make his own choices. But it seems sticking with Torres is one rule every manager has to abide by under Abramovich. The acceptance of the failure of his big money move is yet to come, and unless it does, Torres seems likely to remain a liability for any manager coming in.
With so many crucial decisions going wrong, in terms of the transfer policy, in terms of the player power, and the owner’s attitude towards the team, Chelsea look set to struggle unless the owner can install some stability into the club.
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