Thursday 19 January 2017

How Chelsea fell apart

Senseless sacking of Wilkins sparked champions' decline

Alan Smith

Published 07/01/2011 | 05:00

Chelsea duo Ashley Cole and John Terry cut a disconsolate pair as they leave the pitch after losing to Wolves on Wednesday night. Photo: Getty Images
Chelsea duo Ashley Cole and John Terry cut a disconsolate pair as they leave the pitch after losing to Wolves on Wednesday night. Photo: Getty Images

Over-Reliance on Didier Drogba

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You cannot expect the centre-forward to deliver all the time. After leading the charge in previous seasons, there will inevitably come a spell when Didier Drogba struggles, be it through lack of form or, in this case, a bout of malaria.

Critically, no one has made up the shortfall. Florent Malouda has managed just two league goals in his last 20 appearances, Salomon Kalou only one in 11, while Nicolas Anelka has not scored in nine.

In addition, Daniel Sturridge has failed to make an impression off the bench. If you study the statistics, this is clearly more of a problem than anything happening elsewhere.

Changes in Defence

It is indeed surprising that the team have conceded only one more league goal than at this stage last season, when they went on to clinch the Premier League and FA Cup.

That said, the lack of a settled back four has not helped understanding.

Jose Bosingwa has been in and out, Alex is recovering from a knee operation and Paulo Ferreira has proved unreliable.

Consequently, the rearguard have lost some of their aura. Opposing strikers now fancy their chances of getting some joy.

Frank Lampard's Absence

Losing the midfielder for four months hit extremely hard. It was not just his goals either, though that was bad enough.

Having scored 27 last season, he has so far only managed two, leaving a huge hole in Chelsea's tally. And even if he does not score, those brilliantly-timed runs beyond the strikers cause the opposition all sorts of problems.

Without them, however, Chelsea became more predictable, often playing in front of teams rather than getting behind.

The good news, though, is that Lampard is finding his feet again, delivering some killer passes and popping up unmarked in the box. That will certainly help Drogba, who depends on his team-mate for the quick pass.

Ageing Squad

Not so easy to solve, this one, unless you have got a spare £100m. The club have allowed this talented group of players to grow old together without gradually introducing younger components.

Against Aston Villa recently, seven players in their 30s started the game. The result is a team lacking energy and verve. Set against Arsenal's young bucks or the pace at Tottenham, Chelsea start to look rather pedestrian.

Neither do the young kids being promoted look capable of solving the problem. Josh McEachran definitely has a big future, but the others are either not ready or not good enough. It is going to be a massive problem at Stamford Bridge.

No Room for Rotation

The squad is not just ageing, it is also very small, leaving Carlo Ancelotti with little room for manoeuvre.

As a result, the same faces are being asked to turn out every match. No wonder some looked tired at Molineux. Most of them had played four games in 10 days -- a stark contrast to their main rivals, who can rotate.

So with the FA Cup upon us and the Champions League resuming next month, Chelsea desperately need more bodies to cope with the challenge.

Low Confidence and Morale

When all is said and done, this is the main reason for Chelsea's woes. The senseless sacking of Ray Wilkins kick-started the decline and a string of poor results has compounded the problems.

In essence, some very good players are failing in the basics -- always a sure sign that confidence is low.

Think of how easy it was for Villa's Stewart Downing to get in his cross for Emile Heskey's headed goal last Sunday.

Ashley Cole, normally so reliable in these situations, did not do enough to stop the cross.

It was a similar story at Wolves the other night. Lampard failed to do his job properly at the near post, adopting the wrong position to allow a low corner past, resulting in Bosingwa's own goal.

What's more, at times like these someone needs to have a quiet word, either in the dressing room or on the training ground.

Without Wilkins, Ancelotti finds himself alone, robbed of experienced lieutenants who can speak with authority.

With all due respect to Paul Clement and Michael Emenalo, will established internationals listen to a former youth team coach with no playing experience, or a bloke promoted from chief scout, boasting Molenbeek and Notts County on a limited CV?

In this regard, then, Ancelotti finds himself isolated, unable to call on trusted advice. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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