Chelsea's ridiculous and vaguely embarrassing unbeaten run in the Premier League met its ridiculous and vaguely embarrassing end at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea, who became the tenth(!) side to best the Blues domestically this year, took advantage of a haphazard and incoherent performance, scoring in the first half and holding off a second-period assault that might have been cute if it wasn't so damn depressing.
After the success of the Random Number Generator Lineup at Aston Villa, a victory which was marred by it being against a team that barely knows what football is, Guus Hiddink stuck with the same approach for the trip to Wales. Alexandre Pato started up front. Matt Miazga continued his adventures in defence. Oscar turned up on the wing. Asmir Begovic got a rare start in goal.
Out of the team we might have considered first-choice last summer (granted, this season has changed the calculus a little), only one was represented in his normal position: Cesc Fabregas in central midfield. This was not a settled side, and it showed, with an inability to build from possession and some moments of rank confusion at the back.
Most guilty of said confusion was Miazga. Mistakes are inevitable with young defenders, and it's not like he got much support from his teammates, but that doesn't make the mistakes any less silly. At one point he managed to cough up possession ten yards from his own byline, and Gylfi Sigurdsson's goal owed much to his mis-judged clearing header. Against teams that aren't Aston Villa, these mistakes will happen, and I guess it's better that they happen in games which don't mean much.
The veterans didn't fare much better. Begovic pulled off some good saves but also contributed some incredible comedy. Cesar Azpilicueta, who was the popular answer to 'how do we stop Jefferson Montero from murdering us down the right wing?' back in August, was repeatedly torched by Jefferson Montero down the right win. Oscar and Fabregas enjoyed a friendly contest to see who could give the ball away under no pressure more often. It was all pretty sad.
Chelsea did forge one chance before the interval. It was created by two players I've just made fun of, so consider this a reminder that I'm mostly an idiot: Fabregas spotted Oscar's neat run from the right channel and scooped him a perfect pass over the top. Oscar couldn't turn to get a proper shot away, but the ball broke loose to Pato in space and unmarked. So he blazed wide from eight yards, naturally. Nevermind.
Halftime brought an end to Miazga's time on the pitch, Hiddink apparently deciding that the team would be more defensively sound with Kenedy on in his place. No, the Brazilian didn't play at centre half -- John Obi Mikel dropped into the back line, with Oscar filling his spot in midfield and Kenedy finding himself on the wing. At this point Chelsea looked like a side you might get if you played Football Manager while extremely drunk and angry.
In their defence, they did create a little more in the second half, but were outdone first by bad luck and bad finishing and then by an increasingly stout Swansea defence. Pato had the ball in the back of the net only to find his strike called back for an extremely dubious handball. Then the Brazilian managed to turn Pedro's superb cross inches wide with an elaborate backheel when a more standard shot would almost certainly have sufficed.
Eventually Pato was withdrawn for Bertrand Traore, but if fans were expecting a more competent display after his introduction, they were sorely disappointed. Swansea simply shut up shop, and the only serious opportunity Chelsea had to break the deadlock after that substitution came when Traore slipped a neat pass through to Radamel Falcao, who apparently still plays for us. I bet you can guess the result.
Meanwhile Swansea were looking mildly dangerous on the counterattack. Most of their breaks were stopped by the combination of Ivanovic and Mikel, but the hosts did manage to break through once only to see Sigurdsson spurn the empty net with a difficult header. Most of the second half was played with Chelsea on the ball, but as the late bombardment of aimless crosses demonstrates, it's not clear that they ever had a clear plan to find their way back into the match.
Sounds like a pretty good distillation of the season to me. Bring on Antonio Conte and a summer renaissance.