Is Chelsea's season finally back on track?
Chelsea have gone from the champions to relegation battlers. But their recent run of games provides a talking point, are they finally back?
A euphoric SW6, full of blue sparkles, cheers, and 41 thousand supporters excited to see their 38 games-a-season captain along with the best manager in the history of the club ready to lift their second trophy of the year, the Premier League. Sounds like a fairy tale, right?
Fast forward seven months – The champions and European powerhouse are languishing in the wrong half of the table battling relegation, having won only four of the 16 games played in the league and then the sacking of Jose Mourinho, it all suddenly turned into a nightmare for all Chelsea fans.
It was not only the defeats that accounted for the sacking, it was also the manner in which the champions fell from glory that added weight to the plight. The world was shocked with the axe and nobody knew what was lined up next for the buoyant blues, with the club management and players accepting that top four was already impossible and that relegation was actually a threat.
Since then, Guus Hiddink has taken over as an interim manager and Chelsea FC have been unbeaten in nine matches, having won five of those games while scoring 21 and conceding nine goals. Hiddink, in his second stint as an interim manager at the club, has done a formidable job with slim hopes of a top-four finish coming back after beating title favourites Arsenal in their own backyard.
Tainted players leading the revival
The players that were guilty of underperforming and allegedly betraying former boss Jose Mourinho, namely Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa are the one’s leading the fresh revival at Chelsea FC along with Hiddink's first choice players, Oscar and Mikel, who were not used regularly by Jose.
Both Diego Costa and Oscar have scored 5 goals apiece since the sacking of ‘Special One’. The defence also has kept 4 important clean sheets in the run, which was an essential part missing all season.
Working hard to play European football next season, Chelsea currently lie in the 13th position in the tightly packed mid-table. And with only 15 games remaining the current campaign, the Blues are 14 points off the final champions league place and nine points off the fifth place, which guarantees an automatic qualification to Europa League.
Chelsea play the likes of high-flying Watford, Manchester United, relegation battling Newcastle United, Southampton and Norwich next. The current form suggests that the Blues could continue their unbeaten run and extract points from most of these games and climb up the table.
Winning the FA Cup could also give the London-based club a chance to play in the Europa League, which looks possible with the Blues having beaten a lowly MK Dons 1-5 in the fourth round and Scunthorpe United 2-0 in the third round of the cup. Guus Hiddink, who won the FA Cup in 2009 during his first stint as an interim manager at Chelsea also issued a statement that winning the FA Cup was an optimistic target on his list.
A good run of games brings in a little optimism back to the camp, but a leaky defence still poses a threat to the ambitions of the club. Chelsea have conceded a total of 34 goals in the 23 games they have played this season, two more than what they conceded in the whole of last league campaign.
The January Transfer Window
The club did strengthen the defence by signing 20-year-old Matt Miazga from New York Red Bull for a reported £5 Million, but only time will tell how the player blossoms in the Premier League. Alexandro Pato on loan has been another addition to the Chelsea squad, for giving the in-form Diego Costa a backup.
Talking about the bigger picture, Chelsea have silenced a lot of critics and have come a long way back from where they were six weeks back. Although, the road ahead still looks tough for the Londoners, who play PSG in the top-16 of the UEFA Champions League, and have drawn with Manchester City in the FA Cup 5th round.
Thus, Chelsea could be out of two cup competitions as early as February, given that PSG are riding hot on form with European glory on their minds and Manchester City, who have secured a place in the finals of League Cup, chasing an unprecedented quadruple.
With only 15 games left in the league, Chelsea have a lot of chasing to do for a respectable league finish. But the question still stands, has the team has shown enough in the past few matches to give the fans some hopes of watching their team play European football next season?