There was an air of inevitability to the chaos that befell the Vitality Stadium on Saturday afternoon against Bournemouth.
The English weather was ironically similar to the nature of a contest between two sides who love conceding goals. Chelsea fans may look at the growing list of bad days against Eddie Howe’s Cherries and bemoan a curse from the football gods. Frank Lampard may equally bemoan Chelsea’s continued lack of cutting edge, but the focus should be firmly upon the uncertainty and lack of control the West Londoners have over any game this season.
When Marcos Alonso slammed home the opener just after the half-hour, there would have been hope that a more comfortable afternoon was upon the visitors. But any keen-eyed viewer of Lampard’s Blues since August would warn you over their consistent ability to let games slip.
Outsiders would demean the ruthless – almost methodical nature to older Chelsea outfits, but this Chelsea is the antithesis to that. A side who can dazzle, excite, irritate, bemuse and baffle you in one ninety minute period.
That brief spell of dominance against Bournemouth masked a poor opening in which the hosts could have been 2-0 up if it wasn’t for the smart reactions of Willy Caballero in goal. It was a loud warning to Lampard and his players, which they forgot after the break.
Eddie Howe’s relegation threatened men rose to the occasion and started to test their opponents jaw once more and unsurprisingly, that effort paid off.
First Jefferson Lerma’s powerful header beating the wrist of Caballero – another goal conceded from a corner. In a season of many Achilles heels, set pieces is right at the top of that list.
Then, Chelsea’s heads went.
Stray passes, shape gone – and soon, the game would nearly be gone.
Atheistically pleasing as Bournemouth’s second might be, for a team of Chelsea’s supposed stature, it was far too simple to execute as Joshua King easily tapped into an open net. Another flaw of the Londoners this season has been their passive nature out of possession and lack of aggression in a tackle. Teams of all shapes and sizes are gifted looks at goal multiple times in one game.
From Bournemouth to Bayern, the same story plays out.
Kepa Arrizabalaga was sat on from the sidelines once more and you wonder if the Spaniard will be questioning why he has been singled out for scrutiny when his absence has not aided any sense of defensive solidity. Put Kepa, put Willy in goal – even Petr Cech in his prime would struggle to keep goals out in the current Chelsea side.
For all the highs you could have about this season – the implementaiton of youth, the rise in posistivty amongst the fanbase and a beleif in a bright future under a club legend, its undeniable how uncertain Chelsea are moving forward.
It is still unclear what Chelsea are consistency trying to execute on the pitch. Earlier in the season, it appeared like the Blues were moving in a higher pressing direction of fast movement, quick passing and interchanging players. As the winter has got harsh and results have soured, that has gone away and its hard to conclude what Lampard’s (dare I say) philosophy is.
Lampard started with a 3-4-3, a formation which helped the Blues storm to victory over Spurs last weekend, but as the trip to the South Coast proved once again, no single formation has cracked the code for making Chelsea any more formidable in defence.
3-4-3, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 have all exposed similar flaws and maybe an easy scapegoat for poor results.
Tuesday’s humbling defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League was the clearest lesson as to why Chelsea need a squad overhaul – and without that much-needed overhaul, similar collapses will occur.
Many will claim they know the best starting eleven is, but the reality is that remains unclear based on inconsistent performances.
In the current climate, Ross Barkley has as much an argument to be a starter as Jorginho.
It makes any game a worrying prospect moving forward as the battle for Champions League qualification reaches its conclusion. Manchester United can move within a point of Chelsea with a win at Everton on Sunday afternoon. The chasing pack of Spurs, Sheffield United and Wolves would have also welcomed Saturday’s result too. It is not looking good for Chelsea who have not won consecutive Premier League matches since November (Watford and Crystal Palace).
Upcoming encounters with Everton and Aston Villa should prompt as much fear as Manchester City and Liverpool given the unpredictable nature of this season.
The shining light of the poor display was Marcus Alonso, a player much-maligned was the man responsible for denying a 10th league defeat of the season with two vital goals. Alonso will likely still be off in the Summer, but his knack of goalscoring will make him a player worthy of more minutes in the closing months of the campaign.
In truth its hard to know what to predict moving forward.
The clash with Liverpool in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge might bring an opportunity for a confidence boosting win, but similarly another dispiriting evening.
Whether its a three or a four at the back, you can rarely trust Chelsea to kill off inferior opposition when they have the opportunity, and long-term that needs to be of concern to Lampard whose comments have shown glimpses of irritation based on poor results.
It is clear the squad lacks the solidity of previous characters, or those that had it are past their prime and need replacing.
Whatever Lampard intends to implement, there are gaping holes in his current squad which are letting him down on a weekly basis and might cost him a place on Europe’s top table next season.
Alonso’s header means Chelsea will remain in the top four for another weekend, but it will only take a couple more erratic performances like Saturday’s for that to change.
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