Although Chelsea somehow managed to pull a Champions League trophy out of the hat last season, they finished sixth in the Premier League table below the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle United.
Roberto Di Matteo was appointed as ‘caretaker’ after Andre Villas-Boas was shown the door at Chelsea last season. Di Matteo impressively led Chelsea to FA Cup silverware and Chelsea’s first ever Champions League top honours when they defeated Barcelona in the semi-finals and beat Bayern Munich in a penalty shoot-out at the Allianz Arena.
Di Matteo was afforded a two-year contract with the Blues in June 2012 after his successful campaign and lasted until November 2012, when he was sacked after losing to Juventus in the Champions League – a fairly long tenure by Chelsea’s and Roman Abramovich’s standards.
Rafael Benitez was then appointed as interim manager until the end of the season but was certainly not welcomed by the Chelsea faithful.
Consequently, Benitez hasn’t enjoyed a very consistent spell at Chelsea and last weekend serves as a microcosm of Chelsea’s consistency under Benitez.
They suffered a shock defeat to Southampton on Saturday which saw them drop from third to fourth on the table, now trailing Tottenham by two points and just two ahead of Arsenal.
The west London club then incredibly managed to defeat table-toppers Manchester United on Monday to knock Sir Alex Ferguson’s side out of the FA Cup.
Getting outplayed by a side like Southampton, who are dangling inside the bottom half of the table, and then defeating the Manchester powerhouse two days later shows the inconsistency and irregularity of the club.
Benitez seems to be in a state of denial, though, and insisted the Blues have had a “great” season.
Chelsea have a tough run-in and will face-off against Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton among others. Apart from the Premier League fixtures Chelsea will have Europa League clashes to deal with as well as the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
Probably Chelsea’s biggest threat for a top-four place, Arsenal, have a much less demanding schedule in the Premier League and no other cup commitments.
Chelsea fans will be distressed by the untimely loss against Southampton as this has added huge pressure on the Blues for the remaining fixtures.
Arsenal and Chelsea have a game in hand over Tottenham, however, and this may help the Stamford Bridge out of a sticky situation.
But if they continue to turn in inconsistent performances, they might just end up repeating last season’s Premier League disappointment - finishing fifth or even sixth again.
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