Feeling frustrated? Angry? Have a sense of déjà vu? Think one match can summarise our season?
Congratulations, you’ve hit the Antonio Conte jackpot. Because that’s exactly how the Chelsea manager feels after watching the Blues cough-up another lead, fail to capitalize on dominant possession and some very attractive football, and draw yet another match they should have won.
Conte: "I think that we must be frustrated for this game. For the final result. I think this game, describes very well our season. Very well. Many games where you have a good performance, created lots of chances to score but you are not clinical." #CFC #CHEWHU— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) April 8, 2018
One of the big questions going into Sunday’s contest was how Chelsea players would respond to a demoralising loss against Tottenham and the near-certainty (turned absolute today, you have to think) that for the second time in three years they wouldn’t be in the Champions League. As it turns out, they had plenty of fight and played some creative attacking football.
But when the announcer dryly runs through the scores at the end of a matchday, they don’t have a column for effort. They only call out the goals. Chelsea scored one and conceded one, in a game they had to win if they wanted to keep their flickering hopes of top-four alive. Conte wants his players to feel that failure and do something about it.
Conte: "One chance from West Ham & we concede a goal. We're talking about improve, improve, improve. You must win this game. I'm very frustrated & I hope my players go home & remain very frustrated" #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) April 8, 2018
We’ve seen it before this season. The defense is leaky and they’re not scoring enough — 20 goals conceded in the New Year, against 27 scored. Those aren’t dominant numbers and that’s exactly what the score sheets show.
In the 20 matches Chelsea have played in 2018, they have 6 wins, 7 draws and 7 losses. In the Premier League alone, the club has 3 wins, 3 draws and 5 very ugly losses.
That’s why Conte won’t entertain any thoughts on a place in the Champions League.
Conte on top-four hopes: "We must be realistic. If we're not able to win this type of game we're talking about what? You must win this game if you want to reach a target. If we wanted to reach a CL place we have to win, because the other teams [in front] go straight" #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) April 8, 2018
Nor does he resent the boos heard coming down from some parts of the stands at the end.
Chelsea’s human kryptonite named Javier “Chicharito” Hernández scored for the sixth time in seven substitute appearances against Chelsea, but Conte isn’t pointing the finger at any one part of his team for the result. His message has been consistent all season: we win together and we lose together. And we improve together.
So is there anything we can draw comfort from?
Yes, two things. One, despite the bad results, the team still seem to be playing hard (if not well) for their manager. And two, in a fortnight we take on Southampton in a FA Cup semi-final, with one last chance to win a trophy this season. Let’s win that one and the next, and end a challenging season on a high note.