Mizgan Ahmed on October 29, 2015
We are into the 11th matchday of this season’s Barclays Premier League and see the champions Chelsea in the second half of the table just five points ahead of the relegation and 11 points behind the leaders Manchester City. Its little odd to say this that defending champions with same manager and almost the same team that won the league last time are struggling this much that they already look out of the race to defend their title.
Its the defence which has been the Achilles heel of Chelsea team this time around. Last season, conceding once in a game was a rarity for them, but this time not conceding a goal is becoming a rarity for them. Lets start analyzing Chelsea position-wise.
As I told earlier that its the defence of Chelsea which has become an Achilles heel for them this season. Ivanovic at right back has been horrendous this season. In the first game of the season itself against Swansea he struggled to control the runs of Montero and looked very unsure whether to squeeze or widen up. Swansea played very wide in that game and Chelsea looked very stretched. Azpilicueta at left back also had same problems and looked very evident that this time around he is struggling in his wrong position. The two centre backs of Chelsea Cahill and Terry tend to squeeze to not allow any through runs for the opposition centre forward. By doing this, they allow that little gap between the centre back and the fullbacks keeping them guessing whether to squeeze or widen up. This problem has been marked by almost all the teams who were facing Chelsea. Teams started to play wider against them making the full backs especially Ivanovic look at sixes and sevens.
Now the two curved arrow lines show that the centre backs tend to squeeze in to abandon any through run or long range shots, but by doing that the space offered between them and the fullbacks(denoted by straight line arrows) are more which actually nowadays plays into opposition’s hands who are starting to play wider and use that gap also between the centre back and the fullback, making life tough for Ivanovic and Azpilicueta as they are always tentative in their positions,they are unsure whether to tackle the gap run or try and stop the cross.
In earlier games, Mourinho started with Matic and Fabregas in that deeper midfield role. Fabregas as we know is not a natural deep lying midfield player, he is more of a no 10 who likes to get into the box more often than not. As expected he struggled in that position, whenever Chelsea were in attack he tends to move in a more advanced role, so whenever Chelsea loose the ball Fabregas never comes back and track that counter which made life tough for Matic and Chelsea were getting caught more often than not on the break.
This is a kind of position Chelsea were getting into when they had the ball with Fabregas(MC role) moving in further role.So, whenever they loose the ball from there, Fabregas never really goes back and track the counter which means Matic is alone in the centre of the park trying to avoid the counter. Eventually though, Mourinho realised that and gave Fabregas that no 10 role and put Ramires alonside Matic. Now, the other problem with Chelsea’s midfield is that they also tend to squeeze rather than going a little wider and saying the fullbacks to stay in their widest positions to stop the crosses.So, midfield of Chelsea needs to be positionally perfect in order to protect the centre backs and the fullbacks.
Chelsea’s attack this season has also not been upto the mark. Hazard’s lack of form means creative front of the game is clearly where Chelsea are struggling. Costa’s in and out of the team also not helping there cause. Falcao and Remy have never been upto the scratch.
So, all in all Chelsea at this stage are struggling in every aspect of the game and they need to pick it up. Some eyebrows were raised when Mourinho was neglegent in the summer transfer because he believed he has the right balance in the squad. Maybe, one or two good backup singings would have helped the cause. Chelsea certainly lacks interms of depth in the squad