While most English soccer clubs would likely be more than ecstatic to be sitting in fifth place in the Barclays Premier League heading into December, the same cannot be said for Chelsea FC. Perhaps widespread calls for the sacking of first-year manager Andre Villas-Boas are unjustly founded in the team’s current position behind an upstart Newcastle United and a surprisingly strong Tottenham side, but there are still doubts amongst Chelsea management and fans nonetheless.
The most recent setback for the Blues came against a resurgent Liverpool club on Tuesday, this time in the Carling Cup. The Reds’s 2-0 victory pushed them into the Cup’s semi-finals and ensured Chelsea would once again leave the tournament early. The inspired play of Liverpool winger Craig Bellamy was surely a welcome sight for the Reds, and undoubtedly a cringe-inducing one for the Blues who have dropped three of four contests in just 10 days.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, they have had the misfortunate of both poor luck and timing on both sides of the ball as of late. Erratic and undisciplined play from the Blues’s back lines, the ineffectiveness of £50 million striker Fernando Torres and the likely departure of mainstay Didier Drogba have the Stamford Bridge faithful in a tizzy over their perennially successful and rather dominant club. They seem to have some very good reasons.
The Blues’s struggles have left them grasping for air in the Premier League behind rival clubs Manchester United and Manchester City while also leaving the door open for Liverpool and the once-disastrous Arsenal. The Gunners, who have refused to quit under manager Arsene Wenger, are still very much in the thick of the Champions League title-hunt after a 1-0 triumph over Marseille. Although the club was just gunned down by Man City and their powder blues in a Carling Cup quarterfinal match, Arsenal and its competitors should play a bit more confidently going forward knowing that Chelsea will continuously scramble to stay afloat for the foreseeable future.
Still, regardless of Chelsea’s up-and-down season to date, the other Manchester team has been the team to beat. With 11 wins and two draws in 13 Premier League contests, as well as a spot in the Carling Cup semi-finals, City looks like it has a very legitimate shot at the title. That may have been a relatively bold claim before the season began, but not now. Even so, the club is trying to keep things in perspective.
“December and January will be crucial months because we play tough games and we play every three days,” City manager Roberto Mancini said following his team’s latest win. “After January, we can talk about whether we can win things or not.”
Contact Jordan Plaut at [email protected]