Antonio Rüdiger was looking forward to returning to the city where he had lived the previous two years to play the team from where he signed with Chelsea in the summer. It’s probably an understatement to say that the game didn’t quite turn out the way he probably imagined. His personal disappointment was quite clear in the post-match interview he conducted with beIN Sports’ ... wait for it ... Tancredi Palmeri! Yes, that guy.
But the focus is not the interviewer, Twitter-famous as he might be, who did a fine job asking the appropriate questions. The focus is on Rüdiger who committed several high-profile errors on the night including on the second goal. For the center-back, who was making his fourth consecutive start, that was the ultimate turning point of the game, as Chelsea simply gave up (his words, not mine). That may not be quite the right phrase and, as pointed out in the beIN studio, could be blown out of proportion, but we may as well go for the harshest assessment. Rüdiger, like Conte and Courtois, was reflecting on the fact that Chelsea were largely outplayed in the second half when all the onus was on Chelsea to (continue to) do just that to the home side instead.
“It’s hard to find words... [the way] we played today was very disappointing. You can lose, but in a proper way. We gave up after the 2-0. We didn’t believe [in the second half], the heads were down. Really disappointing evening. We have to say sorry to the fans who came with us.
“Conte was both disappointed and angry afterwards. This is normal, for him and for everyone. We have to be. This was an important game and we lost it.
“[For the game against Manchester United] we have to clear our minds but we have to discuss this game again. There were a lot of things that weren’t good and Sunday is a very very important match.”
We knew that Chelsea were in for a tough season and Conte, as he warned last season, does not have a magic wand to simply fix this without the players, the fans, and everyone involved with the club doing their utmost to support and work for the cause. Tuesday was another jarring reminder of that, though one that could ultimately not matter one bit, especially if Chelsea end up finishing top of the group anyway and follow up this disappointment with a win over Mourinho’s Manchester United on Sunday. It will be important to keep those simple goals in mind as the CRISIS narrative rises and threatens to overwhelm us once again.