Jack Preston, in his latest Talking Sport column, considers what the rest of the season holds for out-of-sorts Chelsea.
An optimistic Carlo Ancelotti claimed that Chelsea had turned a corner after a 1-0 victory against Bolton Wanderers. Forty-one thousand spectators witnessed the Blues’ first win in eight games as they moved up to fourth place, their revival imminent.
It’s been far from a Merry Christmas for the Italian tactician, with the press calling for his head and the Stamford Bridge faithful less than impressed with the obvious deterioration of their side, who have suffered defeats to Birmingham, Arsenal and Sunderland.
Manchester United topped the tree at Christmas with 38 points and they have two games in hand. One of them is against Chelsea at the Bridge.
Understandably, many believe the South London club have dodged a bullet as they will now not meet United until late February. This will of course give Chelsea the opportunity to build up their threadbare squad, two-thirds of whom are aged 26 or above. I believe this to be a pivotal factor to the club’s recent demise.
Much has been made by the press of the reigning Premier League champions’ ageing stars, but each and every year, those very same players retain silverware, and give a return on their investment. But, also, each and every year a new manager has been installed.
The chain reaction of new managers has taken its toll on the club as a whole, with nobody able to emulate the success of their great predecessor, Jose Mourinho. Each manager employed has quickly looked to mark his territory by make new signings, employing a new, daring formation, and giving a tantalising press conference or two.
Mourinho departed over three years ago, since when Avram Grant, Luis Filipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and now Ancelotti have been appointed. A combined total of eight players have been signed respectively under the tenure of these four coaches. Only one player signed by any of those bosses is an obvious first-XI choice today - Nicolas Anelka. The remaining players in that first XI were at Chelsea under Mourinho.
I consider the sales of Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack and Joe Cole to be absolute lunacy. They are all advancing in years, but they have a wide and varied experience in all competitions, have a fantastic relationship with both their fellow colleagues and the fans, and are all technically gifted.
You aren’t judged on how or why you fall, you are judged on how you pick yourself up again, and it’s a shame but Chelsea just haven’t done this.
They replaced the trio with Yossi Benayoun and Ramires. No new defender was signed, which has now come back to haunt them.
Israeli international Benayoun has suffered with a hamstring injury for the majority of the season, and is still unsure when he will be back to full fitness. Ramires has struggled to make any impact at all, and has only minimal experience in Europe. He is seemingly struggling to understand the concept of English football.
Also, it doesn’t help his cause when spectators are constantly comparing the Brazillian to fellow team-mate Michael Essien.
That win over Bolton may have been much-needed at the Bridge, but whether it marks the turning of a corner is a big, big question.
What do you think? Are Chelsea on the up again, or will they struggle to finish in the top four? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your views.