Beyond all the frustrations of Monday night lies the harsh reality that Chelsea have simply not been good enough for the past three months.
Since the end of the November international break, Chelsea have collected just 15 points from the 42 on offer. That’s 4 wins, 3 draws, and 7 losses from 14. That’s barely a 40-point pace, which would just keep the team out of the relegation zone in most Premier League seasons.
Sure, in isolation, almost every one of those 10 draws or losses can be explained away with reasonable excuses to a certain degree. But added together, a bit of bad luck there, a few bad bounces there, over-salted with refereeing incompetence, injury woes, and plenty of inexplicable moments in general, make for a vigorously simmering stew straight out of the pages of José Mourinho’s Great Big Cookbook of Excuses. Don’t forget the Waitrose eggs!
The question then becomes, are going to keep sipping this sour stew, adding a few more rotten ingredients, or are we going to get better? Have we hit rock bottom in terms of form, or is this just our level now? Needless to say, Saturday is a big test. It was always going to be a big test, but now it’s a bigger big test. Possibly the biggest of the season.
Time to wake up, as even the usually quiet Mateo Kovačić is imploring publicly.
“We are still fourth so we are still in a good position but we need to wake up because they are coming from behind. We need to play these next games like we were playing in the beginning of the season and change some things as well, obviously.”
Kovačić has been one of Chelsea’s best and most consistent players this season, and he once again ran the show for the Blues for much of the game on Monday. As one of the older players in Lampard’s youth revolution, that’s to be expected. But he can’t do it by himself, especially as he’s not exactly a force on the scoreboard. He needs help, and he needs it now.
“It was a good game from us, we played well, like we have for more or less the whole season, but we made some silly mistakes and we lost the points. We are still a very young team and we need to improve a lot. Now we will see if we are a great team because we have some tough matches to fight for the fourth position and we need to show ourselves.”
“We need to improve a lot because we have tough games ahead of us and we have to be focused. We have to train hard every day, to prepare our games better and try to avoid our mistakes because we are making too many mistakes in these kind of matches and you get punished.
“We have a good week ahead of us to prepare for Tottenham and to play a good match. We know this match means a lot for us because Tottenham are close behind us so we need to prepare ourselves quite a lot to win this game at home.
-Mateo Kovačić; source: Chelsea FC
There are only so many rallying cries that can be issued. Eventually, we’ll run out of them, just as we’ve run out of the points cushion we had built at the start of the season — and that’s despite the other teams vying for the top-four/-five playing almost as poorly as well. The first to put together a solid run just might grab the spot(s) on offer.
Who will it be? We’ll find out sooner than we might like.