Chelsea’s defensive stability is starting to lose its way. The defense solidity that had grown to become a force to reckon with across all competitions in past the months now looks vulnerable as shambolic defending has started to characterise Thomas Tuchel’s side in recent weeks.
Chelsea’s Defensive Stability – Vulnerabilities Starting to Show
Title Aspirations Being Damaged
Six consecutive games with no clean sheet to show and conceding no less than a goal, is a clear pontification to this assertion. But this unflattering form is becoming alarming and as such, it is time to fix the menace in order to keep Chelsea’s title aspirations alive.
Chelsea’s defensive imbalance is epitomised by the unflattering outcomes of their previous encounters in both domestic competition and in Europe. In the last four games played across all competitions, Chelsea have shipped more goals (9) than they have conceded in their previous eighteen outings, with the most recent being Jarrad Branthwaite’s close range equaliser that held the Blues to a shock 1-1 draw in the clash against Everton on Thursday 16th. That came after Leeds United had pierced their defense on two occasions during their controversial 3-2 victory over Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
Those results followed their frustrating 6-goal thriller on the final matchday of the Champions League against Zenith St. Petersburg – three goals apiece for both teams – that denied them the advantage to top their group ahead of Juventus, barely four days after they suffered an ill-fated 3-2 defeat to West Ham United which saw them slip from the summit of the Premier League
As if that is not enough, their resilience and resistance seems to have parted ways with them. Chelsea have been built in a manner to withhold pressure and their composure in defence has been lauded on several occasions as having the ability to keep oppositions attacking threat at arm’s length.
But the reverse is the case in the past few matches as they now look susceptible to error when faced with oppositions attacking pressure and how they have unnecessarily surrendered the lead against Everton, Leeds United and West Ham United, among others demonstrates the diminishing level of Chelsea’s defensive invulnerability.
What is the Cause of Chelsea’s Defensive Predicament?
The European Champions could be said to be the architect of their own misfortune. In fact on recent occasions they have shown a penchant for self-harm. A series of capital blunders committed by a few players have jeopardised their nine weeks dominance in the Premier League as they continue to lose ground in the quest for the title among their competitors after failing to close the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool following their frustrating draw to Everton.
First, it was Jorginho’s error in the 1-1 home draw to Manchester United, before Ruben Loftus Cheek was robbed by Moussa Sissoko at the center of the park to feed Emmanuel Dennis for Watford’s equaliser in their eventual 2-1 loss to Chelsea.
Edouard Mendy — one of the culprits — also cheaply gifted away a penalty to West Hams’ Gerard Bowen who outsmarted him by capitalising on his sluggishness to clear his lines in the box in a game that the Hammers left it late before punishing Chelsea, thanks to Arthur Masuaku’s injury-time winner.
A title challenger does not even spare room for errors, but Chelsea remained hesitant to make amends anytime soon and Everton exploited their complacency at the back line to slot home an equaliser, 4 minutes after the home side broke the deadlock courtesy of Mason Mount 70th minute strike.
Perhaps the absence of key central midfielders, Mateo Kovaçic and N’ golo Kante due to injuries — with the former just returning to training today after recovering from Covid-19 variant omicron while the latter is sidelined with a reoccurring hamstring injury which he suffered in the 4-0 win over Juventus — may constitute a determining factor for Chelsea’s sloppy defensive performance in the past weeks. This is as a result of the pivotal role been played by the central midfield in executing Thomas Tuchel’s strategic 3-4-3 formation.
The Kovaçic-Jorginho partnership at the middle of the park ensures game stability, gives room for the team to orchestrate play at their own pace and enables the explosive wing backs, Reece James and Ben Chilwell to instigate ferocious attacks in the opponents half. It is no surprise that the fullbacks have notched a combined 13-goal contribution in the ongoing Premier League campaign.
With an injury-hit midfield department, the Chelsea manager has employed different midfield options, handling over the responsibilities at the central area to a number of players, most notably Ruben Loftus Cheek with Ross Barkley, Saul Niguez and even the unlikely Reece James have all been offered a chance in Chelsea’s midfield position most recently.
But an attempt to establish a romantic partnership among these Kante, Jorginho and Kovaçic’s legate have been unconvincing as oppositions including Leeds United, Zenith St. Petersburg, West Ham United, have outplayed Chelsea in the midfield to launch attacks on their defensive wall.
Curbing Defensive Mistakes – The Way Forward for Chelsea
The Chelsea boss rightly stated prior to the commencement of the season that he sees his team in fourth place at the end of the campaign with Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United ranking above his side in the pecking orders. This is more rather a diminutive ironical statement made just to stave off high expectations from the Chelsea team as the top notch and mouthwatering performance showcased by the European champions at the start of the 2021/22 season which saw them climb to the helm of the league table for nine weeks implies that Chelsea are indeed title challengers aiming to claim the silverware.
They have laid a solid foundation and should seek to prevent it from any abrupt destruction. Thus, all hands must be on deck to solve the emerging defensive mishaps. The midfield have proven to be the livewire in the successful manifestation of Chelsea’s game plan and as such the manager is faced with the arduous task of finding the best possible midfield combination that can act as active replacement of the midfield absentees — considering the quality of options at his disposal in spite of 4 players; Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell testing positive for Coronavirus.
Four points adrift of Pep Guardiola’s side at the top of the table, a swift and positive change of attitude in the game against Wolvehampton Wanderers on Sunday and subsequent other matches before the close of the first half of the season will go a long way in suggesting that the Blues are up to the task to compete with their bitter rivals for the coveted Premier League crown.
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