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It is not 2012 anymore and that's the worry for Chelsea

Chelsea need to bring back the grit and strength of 2012 if they are to win against Barcelona and tactics and hardened leadership is pivotal

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature 13 Mar 2018, 21:23 IST
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Chel
Chelsea have had a torrid time in 2018 so far

Just one day before Chelsea face Barcelona in the Champions League, many Chelsea fans are reminiscing the famous win at Camp Nou which ultimately led to the West London club lifting the trophy they desired for a long time in 2012.

Since then, the times have changed. I am not saying that it didn't change for the better but there are also certain aspects which have altered for the worse at the club over the years since 2012.

One of most pivotal areas which have downgraded over the years is the leadership which will play an immensely critical role during the match against Barcelona, Wednesday.

Sure, the current Chelsea side played brilliantly against the Blaugrana in the first fixture. They were defensively very stable (apart from the fatal miss pass from Christiansen) and they were brilliant offensively.

They were starkly different from the 2012 side mainly in terms of attacking. And, I am sure with the way they are playing under Antonio Conte, the Blues will not be as defensive as their 2012 predecessors. This is a positive.

But what is more important than mere tactics, is leadership and mentality. I don't know whether the current Chelsea side and especially this season, are gritty and mentally sturdy as the team in 2012.

In 2012, during the second leg of Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, the Blues went down to 10 men after a foolish mistake by former captain, John Terry and they could still pull out a draw which confirmed their place in the finals due to a 3-2 aggregate score.

Whether the current Chelsea team can do the same if they face a similar situation in the match tomorrow remains to be seen.

Now this quite a sad reality especially when seen in the context of Chelsea's Premier League title triumph, last season. In Conte's first season, he revamped a tired and faded Chelsea team and made them almost indestructible.

It could be seen not only in his brave tactical change (3-4-3) but also from his sideline actions. He was jumping, shouting instructions reacting theatrically when someone missed a scoring chance.

In this season, however, he is subdued. He is not reacting and not even celebrating and at times we have seen him totally inactive on the sidelines, which is something the fans wouldn't have expected to see.

FC Barcelona v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Semi Final
Torres goes past Valdez to score

This translates onto the players on the pitch and the league table along with current form says the same. The start of 2018 has been nothing short of devastating for Chelsea. Out of 9 Premier League matches, they have won only 3 and lost 4.

Ironically, amidst this bad form, the Blues performed well against Barcelona. It could be that the club is focusing more on Champions League than the Premier League, but it's just conjecture at this point.

One of the main reasons why this has happened is because, at the moment, Chelsea lack strong leaders on the pitch who can rally the players and try to take them out of the rut they are in presently.

Cesar Azpilicueta is the only player I can see who is displaying similar leadership characteristics like the ones we saw in 2012. But one player in a team of 11 can do little.

In the 2012 team, Chelsea had Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba who were central figures not only on the pitch but also in the dressing room. We see more skilled players in the current Chelsea team but without the same mentality as that of the old guard.

To win against Barcelona, the Blues will need both impeccable tactics along with hardened leadership to go through. Somehow, they need to bring back the charisma of the earlier successful days. If they can't then they are in for a tough night on Wednesday.

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