Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chelsea, the crisis lurches on.

It is not a 'difficult moment' and it has not been for some time now. Chelsea by their own Abramovich era standards are a team in free fall with a coach who as likeable as he is seems to have little idea how to arrest the seemingly irreversible slide.

Things went from bad to worse yesterday when Chelsea were knocked out of the FA Cup on penalties by a mediocre Everton team who have been scrabbling around all season in the Premiership for results. This was a team that Chelsea would have dispatched without a second thought even nine months ago.

It is hard to pinpoint what the problem truly is and it may simply be confidence but for such an experienced squad, it is hard to believe that confidence could be such a factor for so long.

What looks to be the problem is that since the Mourinho era squad was trimmed to a more slimlined version, Chelsea have been overly reliant on a few key players. Ashley Cole remains the best leftback in the world but Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien have all been miles below their best this season for a variey of reasons from illness to injury to simply being over the hill. The need for squad replenishment has already been well documented on this blog.

Abramovich has now put himself in a real quandary with his previous firings and injudicious choices in the first place. It is simple to see that Chelsea have suffered from a lack of continuity whilst ManYoo have continued to flourish. Firing another manager now would just compound the view of the appointments being poor ones in the first place. Ancelotti is also a popular figure and most people would wish to give him time to pull the club out of the current mess.

The flip side however is that Chelsea simply cannot risk finishing fifth or worse. If there is squad building to be done this Summer then Champions League football is a pre-requisite. Chelsea realistically look capable of no more than fourth place now - even that requires a Champions League qualifying round - and the Roublemaster must decide quite simply whether Chelsea are definitely capable of finishing above Spurs or not. If not, then he may well act.

Hiring and firing managers has never been the right way and the current Chelsea predicament is really down to poor planning and inexperience at board level at the highest echelon of the game. Maybe it is no coincidence that Kenyon and Arnesen have left or are leaving, seemingly unable to deal with the man at the very top, or maybe it the reality that no decisions are made other than by Roman himself.

Chelsea looks right now like the rich man's play thing that fans always dreaded it becoming with managers coming and going and the owner's favourite player, be it Shevchenko or Torres coming in on a whim. Chelsea may well ride out this period and finish in the top four but the omens going forward are far from good - no nonsense.