Antonio Conte and his Chelsea team travel to Hull City this weekend. Is this the biggest game of our season so far?
Antonio Conte arguably faces the biggest test of his time at Chelsea so far this weekend as we take on Hull City. It sounds ridiculous bu...
Antonio Conte arguably faces the biggest test of his time at Chelsea so far this weekend as we take on Hull City. It sounds ridiculous but after two defeats against our top four rivals Chelsea is once again in turmoil.
No disrespect to our opponents this but based on the players available for selection, Chelsea should take a comfortable three points. However, as Antonio Conte pointed out in his pre-match interview at Arsenal last Saturday evening, Chelsea are only a good team on paper, not on the pitch so this is now a real test of character for everyone at the club.
Disconnect between the Manager and his players?
The biggest issue for me is the apparent disconnect between Conte and his players in those two defeats. For that, in addition to his players, he must also be accountable. Players have openly admitted that they did not follow the tactical instructions given by Conte that both he and his staff had worked hard to plan in the build up to the game, which is staggering in my view. As early into the season as we are, there has to be serious concerns from the Chelsea hierarchy.
Antonio Conte is paid to manage those players, to make important tactical decisions and to get the best of them. I have little doubt that he works hard in training to do exactly that and prepares everything with meticulous detail. Unfortunately, Conte has discovered the issues that plagued Chelsea throughout the course of last season and despite doing everything he can to prepare the players, it’s what happens when the players cross the white line onto that pitch that matters.
Chelsea’s defensive performances at home to Liverpool and away at Arsenal have been atrocious at best and this surely now has to be a priority. Chelsea’s success over recent years has been built on a solid defensive unit, organised and working in tandem with each other marshaled by the inspirational John Terry. As we have seen over recent years, without him there we look a shambles.
Gary Cahill looks like he is still suffering from last season and nightmare Euro 2016. To make the amount of defensive errors and mistakes that have cost us goals this early in the season has put pressure on Conte to drop him this weekend.
Branislav Ivanovic is a shadow of the player he was and also needs to be dropped. He lacks pace, his success rate from attempted crosses into the box is poor and in my view, the only way he can keep his place in the team moving forward is to play as one of three centre-backs for Antonio Conte.
David Luiz needs time to adjust to Conte’s methods and expectations but in my view would flourish as one of Conte’s centre backs in a 3-5-2 formation and we await news on Kurt Zouma.
Think back and take stock for a second at all the recent successes that we have had at the club since Roman Abramovich took over. You will recall that our team had leaders and inspirational characters throughout the core of the side. Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, all captains in their own right but each one of them willing to talk everyone through games, give people a dressing down, encourage or to produce one moment that could change the outcome of a game. All of them led by Terry.
It was the important spine that everything was built from. Think of all the players that have played alongside those names for Chelsea and it’s a remarkable list but every single one of them looked to those four players when things were not going as planned; they knew they could rely on one or all of them to do something to change our fortunes.
Three of those four names have left the club and will remain an integral part of the most successful period in our history but John Terry remains; he is the only natural leader we have left at our club and it shows.
Chelsea’s Inspirational Captain to return?
John Terry is all set to make his return to first team action after missing the last two weeks through injury. Many people made comment or passed judgment on the club extending his contract for an additional year last summer; now more than ever the same people can understand that he is needed more than ever.
With Terry in the side we look like an organised defensive unit with everyone understanding their role within the framework of the team. If anyone steps out of line or is not playing how they should, he is the man to sort it out on the pitch. He talks players through games, reminds people of their responsibilities and is the person everyone looks to for guidance.
Football Pundits like to remind us all of the importance of experience in the game and Terry has bundles of that. You would hope that the likes of Cahill and Ivanovic would use the experience they have at this stage of their careers as an advantage week in, week out in the Premier League. It’s glaringly obvious they rely on Terry being there and that’s disappointing. Chelsea still face the same question that has been asked for the past four years; “How do you replace John Terry?”
Where are our star names?
You will agree that the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian have disappeared during both the Liverpool and Arsenal games. Both flatter to deceive against opposition such as Burnley etc, but in the big games when we are looking to them to step forward, to make a difference, they have been non-existant.
I can never understand how you cannot motivate yourselves to play in games such as those? Knowing that you are struggling to get involved or that you are not having the influence on the game the team requires you to do, why not put yourselves forward, make a point of going searching for the possession of the ball and to make something happen?
In my view, both should be dropped in favour of players who perform on a regular basis, or those who have not had many opportunities to start games. I can accept one bad performance but, for two in a row against to of the biggest rivals we have is unacceptable and these people need to be made to feel that they cannot just turn up and expect to be selected every week.
Roman’s presence at Cobham tells it’s own story.
As we know, Roman Abramovich has made a point of personally attending three days training at Cobham followed by lunch and discussions with Antonio Conte. It’s a stark reminder of the levels expected by the Owner from everyone connected with our first team.
Reports will have you believe that it’s a public display to back his manager but I disagree. As we have seen throughout the years, Roman will take a keen interest when things seem to be in disarray or not going as expected. Have little doubt, everyone remains on their toes in the weeks to follow.
It cannot get any worse – or could it?
It has been a nightmare two weeks for Blues fans all over the world having to watch the level of performance and commitment from Chelsea. We are looking for a marked improvement this weekend. It will be interesting to see how we approach the game and if any tactical changes are made to our formation.
Chelsea need a good performance, a clean sheet and three points to gain confidence and to put ourselves back on track under the new manager.
Anything other than three points will only add to the turmoil. Surely it couldn’t get any worse!?