On Wednesday night Chelsea slumped to their fourth defeat of the season, allowing the ten-men of Manchester United to close the gap at the top of the table to a solitary point. The west London club were deservedly beaten by an ever improving Everton side and truth be told, the score line may well have been greater than the 2-1 it finished.
The performance from Carlo Ancelotti’s men once again highlighted the cracks in what appears to be a solid side. Balance and consistency are vital factors in determining a teams title credentials, yet they are factors that Chelsea have lacked at times this season. Potential champions must be strong away from home as well as in their own backyard and whilst few can doubt the Blues’ title aspirations, Ancelotti’s side have certainly suffered from a dose of travel sickness this campaign.
Chelsea may have the best home record in the league, having only dropped two points at Stamford Bridge all season, but Wednesday’s defeat at Goodison Park became their fourth on the road this campaign and the he Blues have won just one of their last six Premier League away games. This is hardly the form that you would expect from potential champions and alarm bells will most definitely be ringing amongst the Chelsea faithful.
As a Chelsea fan myself, it is not just the defeats that worry me, but also the nature in which they have occurred. Three of the four losses have come against tough opposition (sorry Wigan fans!) yet in all three of these matches Chelsea have taken the lead. It may not be productive to dwell on the past but back in the Mourinho era if Chelsea went 1-0 up, it usually stayed that way. Ancelotti has inherited essentially the same squad that Mourinho previously led, so when did Chelsea forget how to shut out a game?
After Florent Malouda opened the scoring last night Chelsea never looked comfortable. Credit must be given where it is due and Everton were the better side on the night. David Moyes got his tactics spot on and his side deserved their three points. The Toffees once again exploited Chelsea’s inability to defend set pieces and like the return fixture in December, as well as the losses at Villa Park and Eastlands, Chelsea had no answer to the high balls lofted into their box. Sunday’s hero John Terry experienced a night to forget as Louis Saha had the former England captain’s number throughout the game. It was Terry’s misjudgement (not for the first time in the game) that lead to the Everton winner, with the centre back failing to connect with a long ball, leaving the Frenchman to finish emphatically past the impressive Petr Cech.
Whilst Chelsea faltered in Liverpool, champions Manchester United produced a rugged display to earn a battling point at Villa Park, despite having to play the majority of the game with ten men. Their display was far more composed than Chelsea’s and if anything the loss of a man only spurred on Ferguson’s men. It was a lesson in how to produce a result from a sticky situation and something that Chelsea need to take note of if they are to dethrone the Red Devil’s.
As biased as I may be, I do not feel it would be inaccurate to suggest that Chelsea have the best squad in the Premier League. Their home form has been phenomenal this season however; Ancelotti needs to quickly find a cure to the travel sickness that his side have been suffering from. They can no longer continue to throw away leads and points and need to battle through poor performances because after all, that’s what champions do. The next away day for Chelsea comes in a must win game against Wolves and after that, a trip to Italy to face their former hero and a man who has not lost a home game since 2002. Should be a breeze eh?