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Chelsea’s struggles

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Chelsea looked intensely porous and shattered to bits after a bad start to the new season. All of this is despite bringing in big names over the summer transfer window. Raheem Sterling, was brought from Manchester City while Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly was signed to strengthen the defence. 

The Blues were not done and signed Brighton’s Marc Cucurella and then broke record by making Wesley Fofana their costliest defender ever. They gave underwhelming performances on a roll, struggling at the back and failing to score goals. Thomas Tuchel’s was backed heavily, and results had to soon turn around. However, the surprise loss against Dinamo Zagreb in the UCL proved to be a step too steep. Chelsea have parted ways with Thomas Tuchel in a move that simultaneously surprises and was somehow expected. Chelsea’s beautiful style of play has seemed to die, with them playing unentertaining and boring football.

So, what went wrong with Chelsea? We try to analyse.

Chelsea 2020/21 UEFA Champions League winners

Thomas Tuchel took over at Chelsea in January 2021, and his goal since his arrival was very clear. He wanted to make Chelsea a team every club in the league hates facing. One of his main aims was to make Chelsea hard to beat and win the biggest and most prestigious titles in football. After Frank Lampard’s dismissal, Tuchel brought a new style of play to the team, one even the fans loved watching. When Chelsea played under Tuchel, they owned the pitch and the ball. They dictated the game themselves, and they had total control.

Frank Lampard’s 4-3-3 formation and tactics were heavily flawed, which left them open to counterattacks while they used to attack in the final third. For this reason, they could only keep just three clean sheets from the first 12 games that season until Tuchel’s appointment. They wanted a system in which they could defend better and have control of the ball.

Tuchel introduced a three-man backline behind a two-man pivot in the midfield. This helped them become solid in the central areas of the pitch, retain the ball and be resistant to counters. This was along with two wing-backs who stayed wide and forward with two attacking midfielders who supplied a single striker. This helped the side pressurise the opposing side back to their box. This 3-4-2-1 formation provided stability and was quite similar to Antonio Conte’s tactics back in 2016-17’s title-winning season. This helped the Blues bag 31 clean sheets in Tuchel’s first 50 games, play exciting football, defeat Manchester City and win the 2020/2021 Champions League title.

Descent from champions to mid-table 

Chelsea lost their fluent identity, and it can’t be described any better than this. They are not looking lively as they used to be. Players look short of ideas and timid on the pitch. There seems to be a lack of awareness and passion amongst Tuchel’s men after constantly failing to put out a fluid style of football. Much of the blame lies on Tuchel’s door.

When it comes to attacking, the Tuchel had a lot of options to put forth. The forwards connecting with the attacking midfielders and the wing-backs have always proved to be one of Chelsea’s strongest points, making them unpredictable. However, this season they have looked shorn of confidence, having no particular style of play whatsoever. Their goals so far have been a matter of someone being at the right place at the right time. They are a team who used to play high-width, attack-building football with short passes to the opposition’s box, and so far, they have only contradicted themselves. The pattern of plays that were based on off-ball running, and stretching the opposition defence side-to-side with probing passes have all gone missing.

Reckless passes and hesitant to shoot even at the right opportunity correctly describe their situation. However, their defence is a bigger worry. 

Chelsea have looked vulnerable at the back. They have conceded easy goals and are not as significant a threat as they have looked in previous seasons. After their defeat to Southampton, Tuchel even admitted, “Chelsea are easy to beat right now.”

Lack of confidence

The Chelsea players lack concentration, not looking rigid or in alignment with their style of play. They are not connecting well and showing no signs of chemistry. 

Kai Havertz and Mason Mount are two such examples. They have played sparingly this season and have not contributed any goals or assists. This has resulted in the two Chelsea superstars facing extreme criticism. Tuchel insisted on Kai Havertz playing as a false nine but he failed to deliver the goods, which may indicate that position in a 3-4-3 is not for him. Regardless, Tuchel did not identified this and kept starting Havertz in that very position.

Edouard Mendy losing control of his backline has also been a big blow to the team. The Senegalese International has looked poor, confused and not confident at all. He has made several errors costing the team early goals, which lowers the team spirit for the rest of the match. He has let shots go in, which should have been stopped. The dressing room harmony is in doubt after the GK rejected new terms of a contract which paid him less than backup keeper Kepa. How long could have Tuchel realistically lasted in this mess?

Where do Chelsea go from here?

The start to the new season isn’t something any Chelsea fan would have expected. Inevitably, the manager paid for it with his job. However, there are a few positives. The wing-backs have been impressive and shown consistency. Reece James has looked amazing, like last season and has a new contract now. He has been pinpoint at crossing, looks threatening and definitely has goals in him. He takes positions high up the pitch and at the right place at the right time. New signing Marc Cucurella has been brilliant and has seamlessly slotted himself in the backline. He has become their leading corner kick taker and delivers beautiful crosses while also being good at defending. Chelsea have looked like a major threat from corners, like in previous seasons. It has been one thing they have been able to keep up with by the book and have looked dangerous this way. 


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Chelsea are in a precarious situation with a bucketload of new players but the manager who signed them is now gone. The entire bus is going down, and the players are as much to blame as the manager. The players looked lacklustre, and the manager failed to recognise and correct the errors. Tuchel was not been bold enough to make crucial decisions, and the clock on his tenure now stops. 

For the club, their first aim has to be securing a top-4 finish after a lavish spending spree. Graham Potter is touted as the front-runner. Graham Potter’s tactics and flexibility at Brighton have made him the apple of the eyes of big clubs. This could be his big break. But would he want to enter a precarious situation like Chelsea? The players look lacklustre, ownership seems to have a lack of vision and the manager who led them to UCL is now gone. As for the sacking, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Chelsea has that culture. Question is, will the first sacking of Todd Boehly era be a hasty decision or a necessary proactive step? Time will tell.

Aditya Kochhar
A true Red Devil, who has idolised David de Gea for more than a decade. He loves watching conspiracy documentaries, writing poetry and food. He claims to be a God-tier FIFA player and can be seen occasionally ranting while playing it.

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