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What is Going On With the Blues?

Chelsea looks terrible in 2 – 1 Champions League loss to Bayer Leverkusen

This is going to be a bit of a rant.  Can’t help it.  I’m a fed up fan.  Also a spoiled fan, I realize.  After all, lots of teams lose a lot more often than Chelsea.  But Chelsea is so much better than this!  At least I thought they were.  Today’s 2 – 1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen, on the heels of Sunday’s 2 – 1 loss to Liverpool (which was similarly flushed away late in the match), was absolutely ridiculous.

There I was, trying to enjoy a much-needed Thanksgiving break; all settled in to watch Chelsea take on Bayer Leverkusen live (from my living room couch).  I was still smarting from that annoying Liverpool loss, but had been pumped up for the Bayer match by all the tough talk emanating from the Chelsea camp the past couple days.  AVB defending his defense.  Malouda saying “excuses are for losers”.  Exactly the sorts of things fans need to hear after a miserable loss.

Then, Chelsea comes out completely flat against Bayer.  Fortunately for the Blues, Bayer was also flat; otherwise the game might’ve been out of reach for Chelsea by halftime.  After the Liverpool humiliation I expected Chelsea to open with guns blazing.  Instead, they could barely string together a pass in the first half.  I haven’t looked up any official stats to prove it, but it seemed like Chelsea had more giveaways than any other first half this season.  Chelsea showed no fighting spirit out of the gate.  Where was the hunger?

Chelsea had several shots toward the end of the first half with no heat on them and each right to the goalkeeper.  The Blues’ vibe about such chances seems to be that the misses are no big deal, that plenty more will be created.  But these missed opportunities can’t be shrugged off – they are repeatedly preventing victories!  Chelsea demonstrated a complete lack of urgency today.  You knew one goal would not be enough to hold off Bayer on their home turf, and yet Chelsea played like one goal was plenty.  Daniel Sturridge was the only Blue who showed steady energy and desire.  He initiated Chelsea’s best scoring chances of the match.

I understand it is AVB’s job to take a level-headed, measured approach to “fixing” things.  Managers can’t react like fans.  But where is the passion on the field?  It’s time for the players to get a little mad and not take it anymore (losing that is).  I wish AVB would do something unexpected and unconventional, like start benching some veterans in favor of hungry youth (bench Torres and Drogba and give Lukaku a shot).  Things just aren’t working right now.  The season is quickly slipping away on the two primary competition fronts.  It’s time to shake things up!

The current slump is officially worse than last season’s.  This is the Blues’ moment of truth.  Chelsea must respond in a big way Saturday against Wolves (multiple goals and a clean sheet would be great place to start) or the Premier League season truly will be over for them!

What should Chelsea do to climb out of this slump?  Feel free to offer advice below…

Seeing Red

Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes look bleak after loss to Liverpool

I had a bad feeling about yesterday’s game.  Chelsea has looked shaky lately.  The shakiness started with that ridiculous loss at QPR a month ago, then was exacerbated by the Arsenal-supplied thrashing, and followed by the weak Champions League draw at Genk.  All this in a season where Manchester City’s usually reliable meltdowns have yet to materialize, Man U beats everyone at will (except invincible Man City), and even Arsenal is suddenly unbeatable.  String those factors together with the momentum-killing international break and you have the recipe for a disastrous loss against a very tough Liverpool.  That was my fear going into yesterday’s game anyway.  My fear was unfortunately confirmed.

The 2 – 1 loss to Liverpool was one of those absolutely maddening games for fans.  One where you question why you care for any team or sport at all.  Throughout my life, my favorite teams in all sports have been the almost teams – good but never quite good enough.  There are probably some psychological insights to be mined as to why I always seem to favor almost-champions.  Whatever the reason, I’ve never been drawn to the Manchester Uniteds of sports.  I don’t know what it’s like to be able to kick back and enjoy domination.  That’s why Chelsea’s ‘09/10 title win was so fun – it was an anomaly for me as a fan – with goals and wins flowing easily.  But starting about this time last year, virtually every Chelsea game has seemed precarious.  Last season’s slump seemed like a passing storm, but this season’s slump is worse because it seems to be rooted in deeper team problems that I can’t fully identify.  At least with last season’s slump, first place was still in sight.  This season I’m already sweating the unthinkable… loss of a Champions League slot.

Against Liverpool the Blues once again dominated possession, and once again had nothing to show for it.  Possession is virtually worthless if it doesn’t produce legitimate scoring opportunities.  The most frustrating aspect of the match was another hallmark of my favorite teams over the years:  major mistakes (in this case defensive) that never seem to afflict opposing teams.  Defensive errors are killing Chelsea this season!  Liverpool had no such hiccups and therefore earned the win.  Fox Soccer analyst Warren Barton had an interesting post-game Chelsea analysis.  I hope he’s wrong about them, but I fear he’s right.

With things going so poorly for Chelsea domestically, it should be a relief that they’re still atop their Champions League group.  But even that is little consolation this season, because while they’ll most likely advance to the knockout stages, it is very difficult to see them getting past the likes of the Manchesters or Bayern Munich, not to mention Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Indeed, things aren’t looking up for Chelsea at the moment, but at least they – and we, the fans – don’t have to wait very long to begin righting the ship.  Wednesday it’s back to Champions League play at Bayer Leverkusen, then Saturday it’s home against Wolves.  Let’s hope these harsh recent losses inspire new resolve in the Blues!

Will Chelsea finish in the top four in the Premier League this season?