Some will say it’s been coming for a while. Some will call it a reality check. Others will say it was just a bad day at the office. Either way, Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Tottenham was a punch in the gut, and a rude awakening to the real fight for Chelsea this season: the top four. Chelsea are now two points behind Spurs in third and just one point ahead of Arsenal in fifth.
Chelsea’s 18-match unbeaten run may have raised expectations for fans and players alike, despite Maurizio Sarri repeatedly keeping a level head about the gap to defending champions Manchester City, who are clearly head and shoulders above everyone else at this point — even Liverpool, who have the best chance of making this season a two-horse race rather than just a City canter.
If any such expectations did exist, the weekend’s loss surely reset them to more realistic levels. Here’s Eden Hazard, for example, who’s never been one to shy away from clear-eyed assessments of Chelsea’s title chances, good or bad.
“We are thinking about finishing in the top four, not to be the champions. We know City are not much better than Chelsea but they are better at the moment.”
“In what areas are City better? A lot of things: possession; when they have chances, they score; maybe defensively they are better. They have top players. Is it due to their consistency as well, winning game after game? Yes, of course. They are in a good momentum since last year and we need to be back like this.”
Hard to disagree with him on any of those points, especially after Chelsea were completely blown away by Spurs at Wembley this weekend. From the start of the game, the hosts pushed Chelsea back, outworking and outplaying the previous top team in London. Combining relentless speed in pressing and countering, and strength with intelligence to find space and exploit certain match-ups, they executed their gameplan to perfection.
xG map for Spurs - Chelsea— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) November 24, 2018
that's a paddlin' pic.twitter.com/cG6r18apvV
And things considered, it could have been much worse. The (-2) hit to our goal differential is almost a reprieve considering the quality and number of chances given up.
“It could have been a lot worse on Saturday. Everything was bad against Spurs. Against Tottenham it is always going to be hard to start a game 2-0 down. We tried to push but it was not enough. It was a bad day, we need to move forward and try to bounce back.”
But there’s no crying over spilled milk. Chelsea have to get back at winning ways, and, after a dead-rubber match in the Europa League, we have a great chance to do so against one of the worst teams in the Premier League thus far, neighbourhood rivals Fulham. No time like the present to begin another long unbeaten run — we only have to look at Arsenal who have not lost since their trip to the Bridge 17 matches ago (now the best mark in Europe).
“When you lose one, you don’t want to make it two. We have to win, we have to play better and win again. We want to go on another unbeaten run now. We want to take points. The target is to finish in the top four. In the Premier League, anything can happen.”
“Next Sunday we can beat Fulham and other teams can lose points. There is no need to panic. We have been playing good football. We have shown since the beginning of the season we are a good team. So no panic, just try to forget this game.”
Mental, physical, tactical ... whatever the reason may be, the solution must be found.
“I don’t think it is a mental problem. We have top players in the team, we have players who can play under pressure. When we are losing, you can always find an excuse but Tottenham were just better. I don’t think we have been getting complacent after our unbeaten run.
“We just need to analyse why we lost and then try to not do it again.”
-Eden Hazard; Source: London Evening Standard
Not losing is key, indeed.
Onwards and upwards!