Ben Mepsted takes a look at the reasons for Chelsea’s terrible run of form and asks what can save the London club from an empty trophy cabinet at the end of the season.
It would be putting it mildly to suggest that Chelsea fans are not confident of winning any form of silverware this season. They are realistically out of the running for the premiership and after their 3-1 defeat to Napoli they are going to find it very tough to stay in the Champions League. And the horrible fact is, the games are not getting any easier. They can’t afford to lose another premier league game and having only won 2 of their last 10 in the league, even ‘easy’ games are now potential banana skins. On top of all this they have a tough FA cup tie away at Birmingham. It is entirely possible that they will walk away from this season with nothing to show for it. Usually at Chelsea that means that you will be given your marching orders. But Andre Vilas-Boas is talking about a three year plan. It’s incredible that he is already writing off this season and is ready to move on. This possibly shows the immense shift in the expectations of Roman Abramovich, who may also be ready to write this season off, or perhaps he is waiting for the right moment to kill off his Portuguese puppet.
When looking at the poor form being shown by Chelsea at the moment it is worth considering the fact that Chelsea aren’t that good a side. Their win percentage under Andre Villas-Boas at 47.4% is lower than any Blues manager since Glenn Hoddle (93′ to 96′). Their strikers can’t seem to score for anything and at Napoli the defence seemingly wanted Vesuvius to swallow them up rather than stop Cavani. They are an ageing side and the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” seems apt for several Chelsea players. Key elements of their team aren’t functioning in the way they used to, which is related to the new manager style and the slightly different playing personnel. AVB has not been helped by the truly awful form of Fernando Torres, who was rightly dropped for this match, but whose career has taken one of the most dramatic slumps ever experienced by a professional footballer. The fact he has only scored 3 goals for Chelsea this year is an indication of how far he has fallen, and this has had the knock on effect of AVB having to rely more heavily on Sturridge, who is still young and so far having a good season, and Drogba, who is clearly not the force he once was.
Then the mistakes of the manager have come into play. The decision to leave Lampard and Cole on the bench for a big European night is a massive risk, and it is clear that this time it failed. Almost every player performed below their best that night. Mata was the obvious exception in the middle but Malouda has been frankly awful this season, and the Chelsea fans are looking forward to him leaving. AVB made a huge error in leaving Lampard out, and it didn’t make sense not to risk such an experienced player as Ashley Cole on a night like the one in the San Paulo stadium, even if he wasn’t at one hundred percent, he seemed to do fine once he came on.
Reports yesterday in the Telegraph suggest that Benitez is being lined up to replace the young Portuguese manager, and that would fit the Abramovich model of replacing those who fail him. Obviously AVB is confident he can continue to mould this team into the free flowing young hungry team he wants it to be, but his chances of turning around Chelsea are running out. Before and after every game he is now under huge pressure to find solutions to the problems within the Chelsea camp, and talk of revolt and Drogba giving team talks is not helping him or his vision.
Perhaps in the next few months he can turn things around, he could still win the Champions League and the F.A Cup, that unusual double would definitely be enough to save his job, maybe winning only one would save him, but win nothing and his bosses patience will probably be at breaking point.