Is exhaustion to blame for Chelsea's drop in form?
After another disappointing draw against Liverpool on Sunday, I (along with many of you, I’m sure) started questioning what’s going on with our boys as of late. Sure, we got a huge result midweek in the Champions League match against Shaktar, but I still feel that we look like we’re lacking a bit of the deadly edge we showed a few weeks ago. I don’t think it’s out of order to suggest that our CL win was a bit fortunate. Yes, Moses did a fantastic job to get his head on that ball, but how many times can we rely on a last-ditch effort in the dying embers of the game to keep us in it? It happened against United in the Capital One Cup with Hazard’s penalty, and we took the same nail-biting path to victory against Shaktar. Admittedly, I found myself half-expecting us to pull another rabbit out of the hat on Sunday and snatch another last minute winner. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
There’s no doubting we looked the better squad on Sunday, but for squandering some fantastic chances to put a few goals between us and Liverpool, we could have locked up a victory. About the subs on Sunday – I think they were not the best tactical move given the atmosphere of this particular game. I think we lost a lot of our edge bringing Oscar off, and Sturridge really just doesn’t have me convinced he can be a clutch player who will step up when we need him. Then again, neither does Torres, but that’s beside the point. I think that RDM brought up a fantastic point this week when he tried getting our match against Sunderland postponed – there’s not a doubt in my mind that our squad is just plain exhausted, and it’s starting to show.
If you start to look at the minutes some of our lads have put in, it paints an interesting picture:
Ivanovic tops the list (excluding Cech) at 979 minutes.
Comparing these numbers to what our two main competitors’ minutes look like:
Now, the differences in TOTAL amount of minutes the 8 highest have played might not be all that different, but when you break it down and look at what players make up these differences, it paints a different picture. First and foremost, United & City both have players who have played a comparable number of minutes to our guys. However, United has 3 defenders making up a large portion of that, with RVP being really the only player of their main attacking threats to be making up such a big chunk. If you look at Chelsea‘s, you see that it’s nearly all of our key playmakers who are at the top of the list. Hazard in particular stands out to me. We have to remember this is his first year in the Premier League, and as we all know, it’s not the easiest league to adapt to. The physicality and speed of the game we see in England is virtually unrivaled in continental Europe. Then, you see both Oscar and Hazard, who in their first Premier League season, having played more minutes than the likes of Rooney, Nasri, RVP, Tevez, Silva, and Young. There’s no denying that’s some pretty impressive company; and that it’s asking a lot of two 21 year-olds in Hazard and Oscar having only 11 and 9 premier league games, respectively, under their belts to keep up with said company. Moreover, looking across the typical lineup that we start (excluding the defence: Torres, Hazard, Mata, Oscar, Ramires, Mikel), you see a total of 4910 minutes across these 6 players. Looking at United & City’s top 6 attacking/midfield players’ minutes, you see 3921 and 3974, respectively. Our typical lineup has logged almost 1000 more minutes than our main competition. Furthermore, looking at the players for United and City who comprise these minutes, you see zero “Premier League Rookies” in the bunch. In fact, almost all of them are seasoned Premier League vets who are used to this kind of physical demand. And need I point out that this is only looking at Premier League matches?
We’re not taking into consideration any Champions League or League Cup matches, not to mention the upcoming demands the Club World Cup will place on our crew. We’ve had very little variety in our starting lineup in all of these competitions, meaning the demand on our core group of players has been exponentially greater, and will only continue to grow. I can’t knock our boys for doing what they’ve done thus far this season – They’ve showed heart and determination in our bigger games this year and more often than not, we’ve come out on top. A lot has been asked with expectations being what they are, and I’m proud of the job everyone has done. But I do see signs of exhaustion setting in, and it is a bit worrying for me. As an aside, we also have to think about the fact JT might be out for an extended period of time after what looked like a relatively serious knee injury on Sunday, adding more complications to our already somewhat shaky back line.
Taking all of this into consideration, I’m asking you all what you think we can take away. Clearly, we need more rotation. I would really like seeing guys like Moses and Marin (maybe even Romeu?) thrown into the mix more often. Does RDM need to start considering, testing, and implementing a major overhaul or Tactical Plan B that allows for greater variety, giving some of our stars a rest? Do we continue to have faith that our main crew can adapt to the adversity, hold their own, and deliver week-in, week-out? Do we need to look to bring in positional players in January to deepen our squad, and if so who do you suggest and what positions need the most strengthening?
Let know what your thoughts are in the comment section down below!
Article by Blake Hewitt
Follow me on Twitter @blakehewitt