Chelsea continues dreadful form in 3-1 loss at Napoli
I thought the 2-0 loss at Everton a couple weeks ago was the low point of Chelsea’s season. The team looked absolutely lifeless. Most disturbingly, they showed no fighting spirit. Everton looked exactly the way I wish the Blues would – aggressive, hungry, and energetic. After the Everton match, the rumor mill kicked into high gear about Chelsea locker room turmoil and especially how long it would be until AVB gets shown the door. I was going to explore all that in the wake of the Everton match but it was too depressing. Chelsea looked so bad it was hard to know where to start. Plus, I had my hands full at my day job as my soccer team made it to our state’s final four playoffs (alas, we lost in the championship game). So I decided to wait it out, hoping for a Blues turnaround in the FA Cup against Birmingham City and in their Champions League visit to Napoli. Guess I shouldn’t have waited it out.
For now, I’ll skip over the 1-1 draw with Birmingham in the FA Cup. I mean, it’s bad enough, but at least they get to try again in the replay. The Napoli game this past Tuesday was terrible. Except for the few minutes Chelsea was up 1-0 in the first half, they never looked like they might win. What is it about every team Chelsea faces this year getting one or two players to slip in behind the Blues defense? It happens every game, usually more than once. It’s maddening! Even worst, Chelsea very rarely generates similar opportunities. To be sure, Chelsea still owns the middle of the field, but in the final third, the Blues are completely predictable. Savvy opponents just cram the box and are content to let Chelsea pass around the perimeter until someone gets impatient and lobs a ball into the middle where one or two Blues are surrounded by an army of defenders! Even the slippery Sturridge who was so effective earlier in the season is going through a dry, bland spell.
Some pundits are questioning AVB’s starting lineup choices against Napoli, but that’s not the reason Chelsea tanked. The Blues just didn’t play well. They haven’t played well for about two-thirds of the season. Champions League play was the last hope for Chelsea to take this season’s lemons and make lemonade. Now they’re hanging on by the thinnest of threads in all competitions. Poor AVB is probably on his way out, and like Carlo Ancelotti last season, it’s not all his fault.
With each week of the season my expectations for Chelsea slip further. Now it’s starting to look like the most they have to play for is a Champions League slot for next season. It’s a grim time for Chelsea fans, but tomorrow’s a new day. Maybe a big win over Bolton will bring some much-needed hope!
Blues report to Cobham for first day of preseason training
It was great to see photos and video of the gang back in training action today. Hard to believe it’s already time to dust off the ol’ boots! Actually, the European offseason is so short, dust doesn’t have time to gather. That’s not a criticism, au contraire, as a fan I love the short offseason. This line from chelseafc.com today cracked me up: “After what seemed like an eternity waiting, the players were back in at Cobham today and quickly down to work.” If EPL fans think a couple months is an eternity, they’d never survive the interminably long off seasons in the States! For fans used to American sports, two months hardly seems like an offseason at all.
One of the things I really appreciate about European soccer is the long seasons. I’m sure it is grueling for the players, and perhaps the grind even curtails some of their careers, but clubs certainly give fans their money’s worth as far as total number of matches is concerned. By the time you tally EPL regular season, FA Cup, League Cup, and in Chelsea’s case (thank goodness!) Champions League action, that is a whole lotta football. The more the merrier I say. With the Chelsea guys already back at Cobham knocking around the leather, opening day will be here before we know it!
Do you think European seasons are too long or just right?