I don’t know if I really want to write this but I’m afraid it probably has to be written. 2015 has been a bit of an odd year for us Chelsea fans; from the highs of winning our fourth Premier League title in May, to the current lows of slumping to our seventh league defeat already this season.
We languish in fourteenth place, averaging a point per game and looking more likely to partake in a relegation scrap than a title race. Admittedly I had been in denial somewhat, naively hoping that our season would get started sooner or later. I thought a home fixture against newly-promoted Bournemouth could be our time to kick on and build our confidence.
Alas; it was not to be. Glenn Murray has made a name for himself, scoring indiscriminately against teams from all levels of the football league, and he did so again, sinking Chelsea and claiming all three points for the Cherries on their first top flight visit to Stamford Bridge.
It’s been billed as the most unpredictable season ever, with good reason; Leicester top the table fifteen games in and the other would-be Champions have all failed to really get firing. Hence, you won’t get a prediction from me about who will finish top come May–partly because it’s nigh on impossible, but partly because I’ll probably be living in a cave as I come to terms with Chelsea’s season. However, here’s an attempt at analysing the state we’re in:
1) We lack a proper spine
Over the past ten years, Chelsea have won everything. One of the reasons for this has been four key players through the middle, or ‘spine’, of the team: Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba. Not only were these players world class but they also had a presence on the pitch and in the dressing room. Now all but one of them have left the club, perhaps there is a lack of leadership in key areas of the team and John Terry is finding it hard to cope with the younger stars alone, who don’t seem to have blue blood as much as the four mentioned above. The spine we’ve had this season has been comparitavely poor: Begovic who, to be fair to him has just joined the club; John Terry, who has been partly absent in both game time and form; Matic/Fabregas who have both been off (and, as a good friend pointed out to me, have a symbiotic relationship with each other i.e. one only plays well if the other one does); and Costa, who is more concerned with eating defenders than scoring goals.
2) Key players not performing
Okay, this might be a bit more obvious but compared to this time last season when Chelsea looked almost unbeatable, almost all of our top players are woefully out of form. Fabregas, Costa, Ivanovic, Matic; all integral in the title win last season but all of which look out of sorts this time round. It needs several players to set an example to their teammates by taking games and the season by the scruff of their necks and get us firing.
3) Lack of transfer activity
Granted, we made more signings than Arsenal in the summer, but none of these were in key areas. Mourinho would have stated his case for splashing the cash to ensure we stayed at the top of our game and it may be that Abramovich and the board felt we were good enough to keep the chequebook clean for the time being. If this is the case then it was a mistake; standing still in such a fast moving game is foolish as all your rivals will improve, as we’ve seen with Manchester City bringing in Raheem Sterling and, more importantly, Kevin De Bruyne.
4) No Plan B
We’d arguably won the league by February last season. We limped over the line without having to play brilliant football due to the explosive start we had before Christmas; the fluidity of our game and the solidity of our defence was hard to deal with. However, we slowed down once opposing managers had figured out how to set up tactically against us and with no change of personel or tactics, we’ve come unstuck. Jose needs to get the players on song and alter our style of play to keep teams guessing. We’re no Barcelona, even at our best so keeping the same tactics game after game is not an option if we want to keep winning trophies.
5) Too many egos
Eden Hazard is a terrific player, there’s no denying that. But, unfortunately for Chelsea fans this season, he’s nowhere near the heights he reached last year. Maybe the young Belgian thinks he’s better than he is because he tends to walk around like he owns the pitch at times. You wouldn’t see Willian or Azpilicueta (known affectionately as Dave) swanning about or shirking their defensive duties. Hazard needs to learn to be a team player so that we have a little more cohesion on the pitch. He has the potential to be a huge player for us, and it’s true that he (maaaaaaybe) has the capabilities to be as good as Messi and Ronaldo, or close to, but Mourinho saying this at the beginning of the season was a huge mistake in my eyes. Perhaps if Eden gets his head right then he will be–in terms of attitude, though, he should follow in Messi’s footsteps, not Ronaldo’s, who sometimes warrants his arrogance but mostly, I find it detracts from his game.
Of course, it’s not just Hazard who lives vicariously through his ego. Diego Costa, as aforementioned, focuses too much of his attention on anrgily clashing with defenders than letting his football do the talking. And now he’s sulking because he isn’t scoring as much as he’d like, all the referees have marked his card and football fans everywhere love to see him riled up.
And on top of this, if Jose admitted that it’s not just bad decisions that have gone against us (although there have been a fair few) and was more humble in defeat, then maybe we’d have a bit more go our way. Maybe the players would take heed of the example he is setting.
So, what’s next?
I wouldn’t sack Mourinho. There is no doubt that he is the right man to turn our season around. Plus, I can’t see any other managers wanting to stake their reputation on us right now. Despite this, if we lose to Porto on Wednesday and crash out the Champions League, I can see the Portugeezer getting the boot.
We need to sign the right players in January. It will be no mean feat, as the promises made will have to be believed. We could be seen as a sinking ship at the moment so are the likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and John Stones going to want to abandon their capable clubs for us? We need to improve in all areas of the team but the pressure is on us and the signings themselves to turn our season around.
The players need to learn to enjoy the game again. Yes, we all want the club to win games and it’s only reasonable to be upset when we lose, but if the players start to enjoy football matches nonetheless then we will belighter and have a bit more freedom to express ourselves. Perhaps the expectations upon our younger players are too much; perhaps they need to learn to lose before they learn to win again.
I can’t see us claiming any silverware this season unless we manage a cup run, although we tend to win things even when we’re playing poorly. But I’d like to see us make a good showing of ourselves at least. It looks as though our top four chances have run away from us, but who knows, given the way the season is unfolding? No-one has been consistent enough to claim they are favourites for the league (apart from Leicester) and the same could be said of top four.
There’s one thing I know for certain though; such as when we beat Liverpool on the last day of the season to get to the Champions League despite being millions in debt, leading to Abramovich choosing to buy us over Tottenham, or when we were essentially managerless and down against Napoli in the Champions League, only to go on and win the whole thing; our club’s entire narrative is built on things being up against us.