As John Terry & Didier Drogba voiced their frustration and anger at Chelsea’s lacklustre performance against the men of Arsenal, it was the Blues who head into the New Year unable to explain their stuttering demise. Carlo Ancelotti cut a forlorn figure, isolated on the sidelines, witnessing what could be the end of his reign at the champions.
Many of us have so easily attributed Ray Wilkins’s shocking departure as the reason for Chelsea’s decline, but cracks seemed to appear even before this piece of headline news. Stemming from the summer transfer window, Ancelotti’s only transfer acquisitions were the unbelievably lightweight Ramires, making the likes of Shaun Wright Phillips look like a towering beast and the virtually anonymous Yossie Benayoun, whose only appearances around the club was to bank in his inflated pay cheque.
In contrast, the veterans of Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho and the somewhat promising Scott Sinclair, Franco Di Santo left to ease the wage bill and reduce the Chelsea pension squad. Their argument; to fast track youth into the first team squad. Looking at the recent game with their London rivals, Chelsea had NO striking options on the bench, and questions were asked as to whom they could bring on to nick a goal. Yes, their early season start was rampaging; averaging over two goals in their first ten Premier League games, but the inevitability of injuries was always going to expose Chelsea’s paper thin squad.
Finally, Frank Lampard’s unbelievable, if not scary, consistent appearances in the league were broken, and with it coincided the injuries of the culminating spine of the team: John Terry, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba (albeit through malaria). For so long Chelsea dominated the league having experienced and quality options covering for each position, but those days have long gone. They had no-one to call upon to answer the doubters, and the looming January transfer window has to see some considerable signings, or Chelsea risk dropping out of the top four.
Having left in early November, nobody could estimate the length of Chelsea’s transitional period to get over the departure. In fact it hasn’t ended. Michael Emelano’s comical appointment only served to rub salt into Ancelotti’s lack of control. It was evident that the ex-chief scout was not his choice. However, it was perhaps the timing of Wilkins’s departure that has had such a devastating effect on the club. At a time, when all was well, Chelsea brushing aside opponents, Roman Abramovich unnecessarily chose to bring in a new face amongst the back room staff. Since then, not a win has been bought in their last six league games. They have simply not been Chelsea. They no longer boast their trait of ruthless aggression. Wilkins’s popularity has left the team divided, and there is certainly an absence of team unity, as shown by their dramatic decline.
Following Tottenham’s win over Newcastle, if the unthinkable happens and Bolton win at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will drop down to the unchartered territory of sixth – their lowest position going into a New Year since the 2001/02 season. Problems up north at the blue half of Manchester seem insignificant and laughable when comparing it to Chelsea’s plight. For them, a New Year, could not come any sooner, a chance to turn over an old and withered leaf, but starting afresh may mean Carlo Ancelotti leaves the champions of England.
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