Chelsea: Everything wrong that has happened so far this season and what's more to come
It has not been a successful season for Chelsea so far.
Wednesday's 0-3 home defeat at Stamford Bridge against Bournemouth was the reigning champions' fifth defeat of the season already with 13 matches yet to be played. This is exactly the same number of matches Chelsea had lost in their title-winning campaign of 2016-17. It clearly indicates that something is causing serious troubles to the Blues.
Antonio Conte in his first year in charge at Chelsea had a big summer of spending and delivered to the expectations of fans by winning the league. Conte's tactics were questioned by the pundits as he used a back three with his wing-backs causing havoc in the opposition's defence.
However, the flair in Chelsea's attack was noteworthy. N'Golo Kante was having the year of his life alongside Nemanja Matic as the former was crowned as the PFA Player of the Year. Conte's men seemed to be unstoppable and were pegged only to get better in the coming years.
However, Antonio Conte wasn't happy with Diego Costa and his exit appeared to be inevitable. Ahead of the 2017-18 season, Chelsea had replaced Costa with Spanish striker Alvaro Morata arriving from Real Madrid. Chelsea had also sold Nemanja Matic to Manchester United and bought Tiémoué Bakayoko from Monaco to replace the Serbian.
Both the transfers were not very well received by the Blues' faithful. There were questions about the adaptability of Morata in England and also regarding Bakayoko who was much of a box-to-box midfielder and not a holding midfielder, unlike Matic.
The recent history of the Premier League suggested that the upcoming season was not going to be a fairy tale for the current Champions. Since 2009, the English crown had not been defended by the reigning champions.
The 2017 season began with a shock for Chelsea as they were left humiliated in front of their own fans when Burnley went on to beat them 2-3 on the opening day of the season. The team appeared to be shaky thereon, as there were concerns regarding the balance of the team in the midfield.
In Bakayoko and Kante, Chelsea had two players who loved to explore the chances higher up the pitch. As a result, their back-3 was left exposed and vulnerable. Chelsea's midfield woes were much evident when Kante was out with an injury in September. The defensive problems had also begun to show as Chelsea lost 1-2 to Crystal Palace, 0-1 to Manchester City, 0-1 to West Ham, and dropped crucial points against lower league oppositions.
The team was also facing issues in the final third of the opposition as Morata was struggling to put the ball in the back of the net even with the easiest of chances. Midway through the season, Conte himself admitted that Chelsea's title hopes were well and truly over.
At the turn of the year, Antonio Conte was involved in a spat of words with United boss Jose Mourinho who addressed Conte as "a clown" and Conte reiterated saying that Jose had amnesia.
Maybe, it was just another typical Jose mind-game which was not taken well by Conte. Evidently, the Italian is suffering the effects till now as they have won just one game in the Premier League since the verbal feud between the two managers had begun.
To be fair, Chelsea have been outdone by the pressure of performance and the added workload of the Champions League which was not there in the earlier season. Added to their situation is the misery of their gaffer who appears to be very much distracted with speculations about his future already doing the rounds.
In such daunting situations, it is the duty of the manager to step up and rejuvenate the atmosphere in the dressing room but it does not look like happening at the moment. Be it Conte's tactics, his choice of players, their form or his problems with other managers, he needs to find a way out. The Chelsea board would not be accepting any excuses from him at the end of the season, given he is able to salvage his job by that time.
What lies ahead is obscure but at the moment there are absolutely no positives for Chelsea. The upcoming month would be the ultimate test of both Conte's patience and Chelsea's patience with Conte. Chelsea face Manchester City, Manchester United, and FC Barcelona all within a time span of less than three weeks.
February would certainly decide Conte's future with the club. If it does not yield the desired results for Conte, he will be joining the list of managers who were sacked even after winning the Premier League in the preceding year.