Chelsea were expected to consolidate their position as one of the best teams in Europe with another strong campaign under Antonio Conte. Last season, they were excellent and there was hope that they could challenge on multiple fronts after returning to the Champions League, especially with their new, fashionable 3-4-2-1 formation. Their early season victory over established contenders Atletico Madrid was a positive sign that they could be one of the frontrunners to lift the famous trophy for the second time in their history, but hindsight suggests that wasn’t as monumental as first thought as the Spanish side crashed out of the competition.
Fast forward several months later and the Blues are losing their grip on the top four after an alarming run of results. During the Roman Abramovich era, there has been a boom and bust cycle at Stamford Bridge, which the crashes normally happening mid-season. Since the beginning of December, Chelsea have played 19 matches in all competitions and won only eight of them, which is a very poor record for a team that is expected to compete for major honours. Their last two fixtures have seen them concede seven goals and score only once against teams fighting against relegation. Neither Bournemouth or Watford are considered great teams, but both beat the defending Premier League champions with relative ease.
Their performance against Watford was especially poor, as they appeared to be going through the motions and offered very little in attack aside from some bright moments from Eden Hazard. Their main problem in offence is that they have missed the mobility and tenacity provided by Diego Costa. Despite his personality clash with Antonio Conte, he was the perfect striker for the system that Chelsea are trying to play and his movement got the best out of Hazard, Pedro and Willian. It would be unfair to label Alvaro Morata as a failure, but he doesn’t provide the same quality as the man he was brought in to replace.
A quick look at the stats from Monday’s game underline how feeble Chelsea were. Watford had 21 shots to Chelsea’s seven, while the home side also outfought their more illustrious opponents. The Hornets won 19 tackles to the visitors’ 16. Antonio Conte is a passionate coach who is usually known for getting his players up for a game, but his team have looked disinterested recently and there is no sign that their fortunes are going to change any time soon.
Since the beginning of December, they have scored 28 goals, with 18 coming in five matches. That means that in the other 14 matches, the Blues have managed to score only 10 goals. For a team that is considered one of the best in the division, that is far from good enough. When watching Chelsea at the moment, it is clear their only plan going forward is to give the ball to Hazard. Although the side have been struggling, the Belgian continues to impress with his flair and dynamism, but one man can’t carry a team.
They are now 19 points behind league leaders Manchester City and facing a difficult task to redeem anything from the current season. Chelsea are in the knockout stages of the Champions League, but it is tough to see them getting better of Barcelona over two legs in their current state. BBC Sport reported that Antonio Conte will remain in his position for now, despite the slump, but it is looking inevitable that the Italian won’t be at the club next season. Although that might be the current position of the club, if the bad run continues, they will be forced to make a change as it would be damaging to miss out on the Champions League for the second time in three years. Their next six fixtures include matches against Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City. It could get worse before it gets better.