Chelsea put in their worst performance of the season against Manchester United on Sunday, losing 2-0 but never looking likely to score, let alone win the game as Mourinho unveiled his latest big-game masterpiece, starring Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford. Credit to those three of course, but Chelsea were in fact so poor that it’s easy to start wondering if something else had been going on.
After the game, Conte talked about a lack of desire and ambition and motivation, all of which added up to a distinctly off-color performance from the Blues. Conte wasn’t making excuses, and was instead taking the full blame, accepting complete responsibility, and expressing his determination to learn from the defeat.
That said, losing both Courtois and Marcos Alonso in the build-up to the game was not helpful, and the impact of the latter’s absence especially was exacerbated by Conte’s incorrect decisions in responding to it. It also didn’t help that apparently whatever was affecting Marcos Alonso was also affecting a few other players.
The Guardian’s suggestion that the unspecified “bug” may have landed in the squad during the monthly team-bonding meal does make some sense and perhaps they’re implying that it’s some sort of food poisoning, which is a suggestion I’ve heard (jokingly) mentioned in a couple places, including Monday’s Second Captains podcast. Whatever the illness, it apparently affected Diego Costa and Victor Moses as well, and all three had missed training prior to the game. Costa, already out of form and mired in a goal drought (certainly by his own standards), looked practically useless for the entire 90 minutes despite declaring himself fit.
While all three were back in training on Tuesday, Gary Cahill “reported unwell” as the latest victim of the lingering virus. Meanwhile, Courtois remains just “hopeful” that his ankle will be good enough by Saturday, adding to Chelsea’s concerns ahead of this massive FA Cup semifinal at Wembley against Spurs.