We’re a little over one-third of the way through the 2022-23 Premier League season, and Chelsea are down to eighth place. Not exactly where we want to be. Far from it. It’s our lowest position in table after 14 games since the Season That Must Not Be Named, when we were 14th at this point (and would drop lower still before turning things slightly around to finish 10th under interim management). Only bottom of the table Wolves have collected fewer points from their last five games (1) than our two (2).
Chelsea flirting with midtable has been a sackable offense for much of the past two decades, but this is no longer Roman Abramovich’s team and decisions are no longer made based on his singular focus on winning and winning now and winning now at any and all cost. Todd Boehly’s remit to his chosen head coach, Graham Potter, along with the biggest managerial contract in club history, was to show long-term “progress” rather than any finish in any strictly defined position in the table (i.e. top-four), and while that sort of rhetoric was mostly lip service in the past, so far the powers that be indeed seem content to lie in this bed they’ve made.
Of course, if we continue along the same pattern that we’ve seen over the past few weeks, that resolve might get tested and stretched beyond its breaking point. There are excuses aplenty, but Potter’s not the first coach to have to deal with injuries, fixture congestion, lack of training time, or discontent fans. We have no idea where the limit for the new owners’ patience may be, but presumably there is a limit. They didn’t spend billions just to burn the place down and keep giving credit to the opposition. Presumably. Obviously, it’s in everyone’s best interest to not have to find that line.
We now have six weeks to reset, recover, and restart. The whole team won’t be here, but a good many will be, and not everyone will make it out of the group stage at the World Cup anyway. Getting back into a top-four fight may not be straightforward even if we do snap out of this malaise. We may be only eight points (and a game-in-hand) behind currently fourth place Tottenham, but there are three more teams vying for that spot, and two of them, Manchester United and Liverpool, have just as much need to finish there as we do. We’re not out of it, but we need drastic improvement. Some of that actual progress we’re supposed to be seeing. Or at least some of the consistency that Potter is supposedly aiming for with his tactics and strategies.
“We don’t really see the formation as the end goal, we see actually how the team’s playing. The team needs to look consistent regardless of the formation. And then it’s about the personnel, how you want to attack the opponent, how you want to defend against the opponent. I suppose those are the things we consider. But hopefully there’s things that look the same even though the shape changes.”
-Graham Potter; source: Amazon Prime via 90min
And even if Graham Potter continues to give off shockingly midtable vibes with his comments, mannerisms, and apparent attitudes, there’s got to be a part of him that wants to be an actual winner. It’s why players join Chelsea, to win titles. And if he’s personally incapable of inspiring the troops, if he continues to insist on rewarding and praising mediocrity, we’re going to need said troops to do it for themselves. The likes of Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher — and all the Cobham boys who have grown up at the club during the past two decades — are going to have to lead by example.
Words are cheap, but that’s all we got at this point, and for the next six weeks.
“We haven’t played to the level we expect of ourselves as Chelsea. You all deserve more from us. When we’re back from the World Cup, we are getting straight back to it and pushing ourselves to a higher level. We have the best fans in the country and we will make you proud this season.”
-Mason Mount; source: Instagram
The only way is up, right?
“We’ve got to be better and we need to take a look at ourselves. Physically, [Newcastle] were stronger than us and a lot more intense and that’s something we need to improve on. If we want to be challenging for titles and things like that, then we need to be so much better and Newcastle showed that. So we need to look at ourselves because we know there’s a lot to improve on.”
-Conor Gallagher; source: Metro
Well, you said it, boys. Looking forward to being better soon.