Welcome to Roberto Di Matteo's Slump

Clive Rose

We had joked a few weeks ago, Game of Thrones-style, that winter is coming. They're just Old Nan's tales, laughed many. Well, the white walkers of Juventus may just have proven her right.

What has now become a regular feature of Chelsea seasons, the dreaded autumn-winter slump is here.

Carlo Ancelotti pioneered this concept in 2010, his second season at the club, collecting just 9 points from 10 matches from November 11 (0-2 loss away to Liverpool) to December 27 (1-3 loss away to Arsenal). Two wins (one each in the Premier and Champions League), three draws, and four defeats is what Chelsea were saying goodbye to as they greeted the new year.

Andre Villas-Boas, failing yet again to break Chelsea tradition, followed suit the next year, collecting 7 points from 7 matches from October 23 (0-1 loss away to Queens Park Rangers) to November 23 (1-2 loss away to Bayer Leverkusen). Two wins (once each in the Premier League and the League Cup), one draw, and four defeats had Chelsea fans calling for the young Portuguese PowerPoint wizard's head just halfway into his eventual tenure as Chelsea manager.

Villas-Boas came back for a second helping the following spring - 6 points from his last 7 matches in charge - but before all that, he did recover splendidly from the first slump. Following an easy league win and a useless League Cup defeat, back-to-back-to-back wins over Newcastle, Valencia, and Manchester City - the latter of whom had been undefeated to that point of the season - gave AVB the chance to regroup, recover, and figure out a way forward.

And that's where we can again draw yet another parallel to the current season. For quite realistically, Roberto Di Matteo needs a result this weekend versus the, so far undefeated, defending Premier League champions Manchester City.

Since the 2-1 spanking that Chelsea received in Ukraine, Di Matteo's men have collected only 8 points from their last 8 matches (in all competitions). Two wins (one each in the League Cup and the Champions League), two draws, and four defeats have seen the Blues manage just two points from 12 in the Premier League. The calls for Di Matteo's head have started (6 months and one day to the date of winning the Champions League, mind you). Some "journalists" have even remembered - and you might want to close your eyes here - that Rafael Benitez was once a thing.

So what's the way forward? For better or worse, Ancelotti stuck to his guns and his methods and the club's form eventually turned. Aided by January signing David Luiz, Chelsea even managed to climb back into the title race. Villas-Boas took the opposite approach, shifting his tactics to take advantage of a certain set of skills within the squad. He was, however, not aided by any January signings (and refused to play Gary Cahill for a long time), and eventually the problems resurfaced.

Does Di Matteo stick or twist? He has certainly shown several times now that he's unafraid to experiment - although he seems extremely reticent to change the basic shape of the team, by fielding various combinations of personnel, he has shown the willingness to play both a reactive and a proactive style. And if he can make it to January, he's almost guaranteed reinforcements.

Survival starts with Manchester City on Sunday.

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