Saturday, March 25, 2023

Chelsea’s Faltering Start: A Look At What’s Gone Wrong For The Blues So Far

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Prasoon Sur
Prasoon is a law student who lives in the North East of India. Wildly innovative, football is more than a passion for him.

When Antonio Conte was appointed as the manager of Chelsea Football Club, a lot of people believed that Chelsea had already become a genuine title contender with the appointment of the Italian. The ambiguous aspirations and a sudden upward trajectory at the club seemed very premature, considering the fact that the manager wasn’t given a license to get the personnel he would have wanted to rope in to strengthen his side. After all, the team he had inherited was erroneous in every aspect and had finished tenth in last season’s Premier League campaign.

The tactical discipline and a strict positional pattern of a manager who is rather animated on then touchline were apparently fruitful in collaborating performances with results which, for once, made the fans believe that they were finally up and roaring for success once again. Wins against West Ham United, Burnley and Watford showed early signs of revival but the reinvigorated spirits ceased to exist when the actual tests of tensile strength came to the picture.

Humiliation against high-flying Liverpool followed by being completely blown away by the cannons at the Emirates Stadium shattered every glass of the airy castles built by the Blues. Lately, fixtures against the Gunners always gave Chelsea an upper hand even before the kick of the ball (no matter where Chelsea and Arsenal were placed). But the case begged to differ this time around. The shortcomings were evident, so were the actual problems owing to which the club is already at a crisis this season.

Vulnerability and Thibaut Courtois Going Hand In Hand 

Once compared to Manchester United’s veteran goalkeeper David De Gea, Courtois is only a shadow of his former self at the moment. He has failed to shape up or command the defensive pack or make a handful of stupendous saves either. Lack of confidence is clearly evident from the body language of the Belgian international and it seems like only a matter of time before Asmir Begović is handed the gloves.

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 11:  Swansea player Gylfi Sigurdsson is brought down by Thibaut Courtois for the Swansea penalty during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
SWANSEA, WALES – SEPTEMBER 11: Swansea player Gylfi Sigurdsson is brought down by Thibaut Courtois for the Swansea penalty during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

There was a time when Chelsea fans and the back line rest assured, knowing that they had resoluteness between the sticks. That, however, has ceased to exist with the move of a certain Czech Republican from west to north of London.

You do miss Petr Čech, don’t you Chelsea fans?

Leaderless and Spineless Guardians at the Back

It is incredibly strange to relate the word ‘erratic’ with Chelsea’s defence and that too under Antonio Conte. From Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, the Italian boss has overtaken the error-prone unit comprising of Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz and Gary Cahill.

The absence of club captain John Terry has only worsened the scenario. To illuminate the conundrum Conte faces at Chelsea, let us remind ourselves of the three players whose presence at the club is laughable in itself. Ever since the introduction of David Luiz, the Pensioners have conceded seven goals in three games. Gary Cahill looks severely beyond his prime and despite being prolific for the west Londoners in the past, Ivanovic’s days are severely numbered due to his unstable displays.

A team that was deemed to be sound defensively, a manager who was looked upon as a master in the art of building a solid foundation at the back seem to have lost their touch all of a sudden.

Lack of Creativity and Commitment in the Middle

Chelsea woes were much more than José Mourinho last season. The Chelsea midfield, which was the reason for their league victory prior to Leicester fairy tale, fell like a pack of cards in the campaign of their title defence and sadly, there seems to be no hope of respite.

In the buildup to Arsenal’s third goal against Chelsea as the Gunners went riot, the shameful observation of the referee (Michael Oliver) running faster than N’Golo Kanté spread like a wildfire. This incident speaks volumes about the commitment from the players, or rather the lack of it.

Cesc Fàbregas has had a hot-and-cold start and Nemanja Matic being too pedantic for the Premier League. Willian and Oscar haven’t really hit the ground running either. Chelsea are clearly suffering from inferiority complexes in terms of their nous relating to creativity or being resilient in the middle (in simple words, the entire midfield is in shambles) and they are far from being razor-sharp under the new manager.

Eden no longer Hazard-ous Anymore?

Diego Costa and Eden Hazard are the only ones who appear to be really trying to make their presence felt. The attacking room is pretty empty apart from these two. There is an undeniable overdependence on Hazard to fetch the balls into the box to Costa. Ruud Gullit’s used the term “Driving Miss Daisy” to describe Chelsea and one must admit that he was on point. Against Arsenal, the entire team was in rags; torn, maimed and paralyzed.

In all fairness, Antonio Conte is a manager you would expect to revive broken sides but his Chelsea project will definitely be the biggest test for him. Some major changes are needed and the situation is much more troublesome than it actually seems.

There are already enough doubts as Conte acquaints himself with the Premier League. Rebuilding the club from the shambles will hold the key as to how he shifts the tides of fortune in his favour. Making the Blues a powerhouse once again, however, seems to be a distant dream for the time being.

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