Underwhelming, dispiriting, depressing, these words articulate Chelsea’s wretched title defence. As every match-day elapses, suggestions of a top four finish appear to be fanciful blather. The unforeseeable nature of this season’s Premier League seemed to represent the only rationale, yet any meaningful propositions have long been concluded.
The Blues are currently positioned in 13th place, 17 points adrift of Manchester City in fourth place; it would be entirely impractical to suggest that the Blues could achieve European qualification within the remaining 13 games. Accordingly, one would expect that Chelsea’s application would be diverted towards their most realistic prospects of silverware, albeit nothing purposeful has seemed to change.
Hiddink has opted to field the same starting eleven for the previous three league fixtures, with the selection of Mikel-Matic in the double-pivot inferring that the cultivated Dutchman is more concerned of avoiding defeat rather than pursuing victory. Ultimately, the Pensioners’ unbeaten run of eleven games does constitute a definite improvement from when Hiddink first inherited the squad, yet it does not rival the standard set by the club last season.
Chelsea has drawn 6 games in their period of resurgence and has still failed to register a league victory at Stamford Bridge, drawing all four home games. Following Chelsea’s elementary triumph over Scunthorpe United, Hiddink expressed his willingness to integrate his younger talents.
"We have these youngsters and I know them now after three to four weeks and I know their abilities and when it's a possibility, an option I don't hesitate to bring them in"
In the six fixtures since Hiddink’s comments, the talk of integration has failed to flourish. Robert Kenedy has been presented with two substitute appearances which amass to a total of 69 minutes, whilst Bertrand Traore has registered a single substitute appearance accounting to 33 minutes on the pitch. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has remained an unused substitute in all six of those games. This prompts the question, what will it take for Hiddink to deploy his young stars?
As previously mentioned, any pragmatic hope of a top four finish has ceased – even Europa League qualification appears to be a taxing challenge with the Blues 11 points away from 5th. The only authentic achievement Chelsea can accomplish is a higher league position which would slightly increase the club’s end-of-season winnings. Surely, this would present the club with the perfect opportunity to enhance the development of their starlets by rewarding them with invaluable Premier League experience?
In a week’s time, the Champions of England will be combat the Champions of France in the opening leg of their last 16 tie of the UEFA Champions League. Considering the quality of the opposition and Chelsea’s doleful demise, it seems that Chelsea await a daunting challenge. This is exacerbated further whilst examining the Ligue 1 table: PSG are prospering in 1st position, 24 points ahead of Monaco, and they’ve yet to be defeated in the league this season.
To certify that Chelsea have the best possible opportunity of dismantling the French Champions, the Blues should opt to repose their foremost talents ahead of an immense European clash. This would certify that Hiddink’s favoured starting eleven is fully-fit, whilst enabling the younger players to thrive against Newcastle United.
Apart from attaining a respectable league position and extending their unbeaten run, the Barclays Premier League does not provide Chelsea with the opportunity of domestic success, unlike the Emirates FA Cup.
If the club are truly sincere in their intentions to resurrect this horrid season, then efficient squad management is fundamental. The Blues must utilise every option available to amplify their chances of success in the FA Cup and the Champions League alike. Deficient squad management could aggravate this woeful campaign.