Finally after six games without a win Chelsea earned three points with a 1-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge. Their last win in the league, against Fulham back in November seems such a long time ago. Since then their form has been absolutely dreadful. Three draws and defeats to Arsenal, Birmingham and a 3-0 thrashing by Sunderland on their home turf, has meant the blues have fallen substantially behind their title rivals Man Utd. Remarkably, now they sit in fourth place, only one point ahead of Tottenham (who have been on an audacious high at the moment) and four points behind league leaders Man Utd, who also have a game in hand.
Although they beat Bolton 1-0 it was still a pathetic performance, which could have ended in a draw, even in a defeat. Throughout the game Bolton had numerous chances, capitalizing on Chelsea’s lack of confidence. They may even have had a penalty when John Terry handled in the box. The under-par performance of the blues was obvious from the first half, when the whole team was playing too deep and were ineffective at maintaining possession. Their style of play was completely cluttered, forgetting about their slick passes and choosing instead to hit and hope with long balls. In essence it was a stuttering performance but the necessary one to reinvigorate Chelsea’s season and hopefully catapult them back into the positions which we are so accustomed to seeing them populate.
It’s funny when you think about it. Seven weeks ago, Chelsea were playing with the finesse and swiftness we saw them display to win the league last season; they were knocking in goals for fun (at one stage 4 goals per game) and significantly – they were five points ahead at the top of the table. So what happened in such a short time?
For one thing they are playing with no belief or confidence. As if they were suffering from some kind of blues syndrome where they really don’t know how to win games anymore. They don’t play with their quick passes and shrewd motions. This could be due to the fact that some of their key players (like John Terry, Micahel Essien and Frank Lampard who has been out for three months with hernia and groin problems) have been out with injury for such distinct periods of time, when they return to the game they need time to adjust.
Their defence for one has completely floundered in recent weeks. Seven games ago the team had one of the best goal differences in the league. Now within that slump they have conceded ten goals in six games – not the sort of stats you expect from a team whose primary intention is to dominate the league.
The unfair sacking of Ray Wilkins hasn’t helped with matters. In fact since the sacking the team have fallen even further – with defeats and draws in places where they should easily have picked up three points, such as Birmingham and Newcastle. Ray Wilkins was regarded as a legend of the club and was highly respected by the staff and players. His sacking has caused tension and uncertainty behind the scenes, which has affected the performance of Carlo Ancelotti as well as the team.
Chelsea need new players – there’s no other option. They lack the depth of other title contenders such as Man City, and most of their players are over 30 and need to be replaced with fresher blood. Ancelotti is considering a few purchases in January but is focusing on sustaining the defence. It all depends on the fitness of centre back Alex. He said “Until the 31st of January, if we are sure that Alex will have resolved his problem, we won’t need another defender.
“We have to wait to see his condition. We can think about things, a new defender, towards the end of January. That would be the only position.”. Also there has been speculation Chelsea are lining up a move for Luca Modric from Spurs. However Ancelotti has denied it and Harry Redknapp is not willing to sell one of his prized assets.
It’s intriguing earlier in the season Manchester United were stuttering with results, drawing with Sunderland, West Brom and Bolton and dealing with all the rubbish regarding Wayne Rooney and his contract saga. Now the tables have turned and Chelsea are on the slump. After the Bolton game Ancelotti declared Chelsea’s title race is back on track. He said “It’s very important for us now to stay focused on the games. Because the league is open again – it is not closed for us.” Whether this is true will depend on whether they can start to build a run of wins, continuing with Aston Villa on Sunday.