Chelsea served up plenty of scares on All Hallows’ Eve in Rome tonight, producing one of the worst performances of the Conte era as the home side took control of Group C in the Champions League. Their 3-0 win evoked memories of similarly bad results against Napoli and Juventus in 2012 (on either side of actually winning the competition!) as well as Chelsea’s last trip to the Italian capital back in 2008 under Big Phil Scolari.
Surely, the CRISIS narrative is not far behind once again — after all, unless you win the title every year, the team’s in CRISIS, basically. It’s a tiring see-saw of extreme mood swings, but that’s modern football for you.
While the 3-0 looks very bad on paper and will undoubtedly be used as another stick with which to beat the drums of palpable discord, Chelsea did not play badly in the first half. We were of course losing 2-0 at half-time thanks to a wondergoal and one of several sloppy mistakes, but, by and large, the Blues played better than when we were winning against the same opposition a fortnight ago.
But where we might have expected at least a similar level of performance in the second half, for whatever reason, it all went wrong.
“I thought the first half was very positive for us and we were very unlucky. We could’ve gone in front after 30 seconds and then conceded the goal. We had chances and conceded a thoroughly avoidable goal. In the second half, Roma proved they were hungrier, more determined and had more desire to battle, so they deserved to win.”
By the time Roma grabbed a third, Chelsea had fallen apart. And it’s this bit that really sticks in everyone’s craw, especially for the head coach who ultimately bears responsibility for it. Incidentally, Conte got to conduct at least part of his post-match interview in Italian, so he got to use a bit more evocative language than usual.
“If I am the Coach, it’s my team and I have to take responsibility in every situation. I thought it was a good first half and you know I don’t like to talk about luck, but it was unfair for us to be 2-0 down at the break.
“The second half was ugly in every way. We must realise that we’ve got to earn our daily bread, we’ve got to chop up the turf if we are to progress and fight for something, otherwise it’s a waste of effort.”
Despite the result, Chelsea are by no means out of the Champions League. In fact, a win against Qarabag in three weeks’ time ensures a spot in the knockout round. Qarabag, for their part, held on to a draw against Atletio with 10 men, doing us a massive favor. Still, Chelsea will need to be a lot better to get that all-important win ... and not just against Qarabag but more immediately, on Sunday against Manchester United.
“I honestly have zero interest in the Qarabag result. I want to know how we can improve, avoid second half performances like this, get the new players introduced and rediscover the desire to amaze.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Mediaset Premium via Football Italia