Well, how about that? Just as there are was some optimism building in the Chelsea camp after last week’s victory over West Bromwich Albion, we’ve been brought right back down to the earth!
Crystal Palace put in a stunning performance to deservingly take away all 3 points from Stamford Bridge, in Jose Mourinho’s 200th games as Chelsea manager, and his 100th at home. After just losing three games in the entirety of last season, we’ve already lost 2 in the opening 4 games this time around. Our league position? 13th.
We’ve gone from being runaway champions to lacklustre mid-tablers in just four months. The signs were there in the second half of last season, but no one could have predicted our worst start to a campaign since the 1995/96 season.
We take a look at the major talking points to come out of yesterday’s defeat:
1) The right is horribly wrong
Is Branislav Ivanovic an Indian government servant? His job security certainly mirrors that of one. Despite being below-par for so long, he started once again, as Captain this time, as John Terry was suspended. The prospect of him facing Wilfried Zaha was hardly one to look forward to. Expectedly enough, both goals came as a result of build-up play from our right-hand side, and Ivanovic was ripped to shreds yet again. He seemed scared and sceptical, staying 5-6 feet away from his man and easily allowing him to cut either way.
Yannick Bolasie came on for Zaha in the second half and continued to torture the Serb. Quite incredibly, when Kenedy was brought on at left-back, Cesar Azpilicueta was taken off rather than Ivanovic. Abdul Baba Rahman may not be match-fit yet, but Mourinho needs to sort the Ivanovic issue out pretty quickly.
2) The big players showed no fight
Remember the time when Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack, Michael Essien and John Terry buckled under pressure and gave matches up without digging deep and fighting? Neither do I. These players not only possessed the skill but could also step it up when the team needed it most. Chelsea were the most dangerous team to play against when their backs were against the wall, as they lashed out when cornered.
Compare that to today’s side, and you will see a stark contrast. The likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa showed no willingness whatsoever yesterday to go the extra mile and pull the rabbit out of the hat. When we are on top, these players look brilliant. When we need to get back into a game, as we so rarely had to do last year, they buckle and go out with a whimper.
If Hazard wants to be reckoned with the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he needs to step it up big-time. His tally of 0 goals and 1 assist from 4 games so far is dreadful, and he is getting marked out of games far too easily. Fabregas looked tired once again and lost possession easily on several occasions. Costa’s attitude has been downright appalling this season, as he once again got into unnecessary squabbles with opposition players and the referee. If he used the same energy to track defenders down, it would do a lot more good to the team.
3) Encouraging signs from the substitutes
The three substitutes who came on for Chelsea – Kenedy, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Radamel Falcao, all made impacts. Kenedy, the 19-year-old Brazilian, showed off some mesmerising skills and also tested the Palace keeper with a shot from distance. He is naturally a forward but played at left-back, but still managed to do more in 22 minutes than Hazard did in the entire game.
Falcao scored his first Chelsea goal with a brilliant low header and showed signs that he was getting back to his best. Costa hasn’t impressed at all this season, and the Colombian is a legitimate threat to his place in the first team.
4) Signings needed!
It’s very apparent now that we need another central midfielder to add more energy in the centre of the park. Fabregas clearly hasn’t got the legs to go back and forth throughout the game, and Matic’s form has also dipped as a result. It may be a bit too late now, but there is no doubt that we should have gone out and signed someone like Paul Pogba or Axel Witsel. This is, in fact, a more urgent requirement than John Stones.
City are running away with the league and are yet set to spend over £50 million to sign Kevin De Bruyne. We haven’t shown an intent whatsoever to improve the side, and the effects have well and truly begun to show. If Loftus-Cheek can successfully make it into the first-team alongside Matic, then we’ll be OK. If not, we’ll be left to rue our stinginess in the transfer window, big-time.
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