Chelsea down in the dumps
It seems that the biggest setback for Chelsea is the absence from the pitch of Frank Lampard.
After a rampant start to the Barclays Premier League 2010/11 season when they were scoring goals left, right and center, the West London based Chelsea (or the Blues to give them their pet name) have recently suffered a down slide of a magnitude that not even the most astute of football pundits would have been able to predict.
Having opened up quite a large gap between themselves and fellow title contenders Manchester United and Arsenal earlier in the season, Chelsea now find themselves holding third spot in the Barclays Premier League table.
The troubled Blues have managed to garner a miserable five points out of an available 18 from their last six games, a wretched run that has seen them slump to defeat at the hands of Liverpool, and perhaps even more worryingly for them against the likes of Sunderland and Birmingham which are decent sides undoubtedly, but which should not be able to beat title hopefuls like Chelsea in the manner they did. Last Saturday too, they could only manage a draw against Everton and that too thanks to a highly doubtful penalty decision.
Linchpin Lampard’s absence
Perhaps the biggest setback for Chelsea, among others, has been the continued absence from the pitch of their midfield linchpin Frank Lampard. Lampard is for Chelsea what Gerrard is for Liverpool, in that he makes the Chelsea midfield tick in a manner that no player has managed to do so in recent times.
Although he might have his critics, it cannot be doubted that Lampard’s average of around 20 goals per season and his numerous assists have been instrumental to Chelsea’s cause over the last few seasons. Even apart from just numbers, he seems to liven up the Stamford Bridge faithful and the team itself,with his evident passion for the Chelsea.
More absences, more trouble
Defensively too, Chelsea seem a little out of their depth after the summer departure of their most reliable defender, the Portuguese Ricardo Carvalho. The injury to club captain John Terry had left them even more shorthanded at the back for the past few matches but his return to fitness should help the club in their forthcoming fixtures. On a side note the surprising middle of the season contract termination of inspirational assistant manager Ray Wilkins could hardly have helped the dressing room environment at a troubled time.
Lady luck walks out on Chelsea
One can argue that Chelsea have been a little unlucky lately in their exploits. They certainly deserved at least a consolation goal in their match against Liverpool at Anfield but were denied by Reina and the heroic Jamie Carragher. Also the other week, in the match they lost to Birmingham City at St Andrews, the Birmingham shot-stopper, Ben Foster dished out a performance that one would have to wait quite a while to see bettered.
Young players and old players
All that can hardly mask two fundamental problems in the current Chelsea setup, that although their first 11 is composed of world-class players they are seriously lacking in squad depth and that many of their main players are the wrong side of 30 or at least nearing it. Their lack of squad depth is evident from the fact that they have to play teenagers like Kakuta and McEachran if a hole appears in case Malouda and Essien or Mikel are absent from the team, and it is common knowledge that owing to the quality of the game and the amount of competitiveness that is ever-present in the Premier League, it is hardly ideal to rely on a couple of teenagers to hold fort. The age problem too seems to be catching up with some of their players as in the case of Didier Drogba, who although still quite a handful for opposing defenders is definitely not the potent force of yesteryears.
One thing that Chelsea’s slump has done is that it has livened up the race for the Barclays Premier League prize, the title that certainly seemed to be going back to Stamford Bridge this year, at the start of the season, is now definitely up for grabs as the likes of United and Arsenal start showing renewed vigor.