Premier League

Just How Serious Is The Crisis Emerging At Chelsea?

 • by Dan Ludlam
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It’s fair to say that Chelsea‘s Premier League title defence has begun in unconvincing fashion.

Last Saturday’s below-par performance at lowly Crystal Palace left Antonio Conte soul-searching and in desperate need of a pick me up.

His post-match demeanour summed up the champions’ troubled start to the new season, in which the Blues have collected just 13 points from a possible 24 and have suffered three league defeats.

The latest reverse at Selhurst Park raised further questions regarding Chelsea’s lack of strength in depth, with a noticeably thin squad beginning to show signs of frailty.

Some would argue that talk of a crisis at this early stage is rather far-fetched but given the pace set by both Manchester clubs, retaining their Premier League crown is already looking like a tall order for the Blues.

Conte was rightly concerned with defensive issues coming to the fore once again, while N’Golo Kante‘s absence has left the midfield unbalanced and lacking spark.

For the second consecutive league game the champions were completely overrun on the counter attack, with the pace of Andros Townsend and the returning Wilfried Zaha causing countless problems.

It was a similar story against title rivals Manchester City before the international break. There are certainly deficiencies that need addressing if Chelsea are to mount a serious defence of their crown.

“I think the situation is very clear and everyone can see that situation,” Conte explained.

“I repeat: my job is to be focused on my work with my players, and to try and do our best.

“Now, I repeat, for sure it’s not an easy moment for us. But I think that, in this moment, it’s important to find a solution. Don’t look for excuses.

“Through work, find a solution. It won’t be easy, but my task is to try to find the solution and to put all of myself into my job.”

The question is – does Conte have that desired solution within his ranks?

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Last Saturday’s defeat only enhanced suggestions that Chelsea didn’t do enough in the summer transfer window to fill the voids left by Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic amongst others.

But it was Kante’s absence that was perhaps most telling.

A crucial cog in a well-oiled machine last season, his exclusion due to injury was critical as the Blues were left unbalanced and rigid in the middle of the park.

“To lose a player like Kante is not simple because he’s able to cover a lot of the pitch,” Conte added.

“But, for sure, I have to think also to take into consideration a solution.

“You know very well that the balance is very important if you want to win. The balance is very important. For sure, our balance was poor. Yes.”

At times against Roma on Wednesday Chelsea looked back to their most fluid best as an attacking unit.

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The return of Alvaro Morata gave the Stamford Bridge faithful a much-needed boost and allowed the roaming Eden Hazard to play off the Spaniard and dictate the play.

It worked a treat for the opening half an hour, but once again, Chelsea were left cursing individual errors in a noticeably abject defensive performance.

Cesar Azpilicueta admitted afterwards that morale is at all-time low since Conte took over and it is having a major impact on performance levels.

It’s at times like these that champions must show what they are made of. The last time Chelsea suffered back-to-back Premier League defeats, they went on a magnificent 13-match winning run.

“After this defeat… but you know I don’t like to lose,” Conte admitted after Palace.

“Imagine when you lose two games in a row. For sure, my soul is bad.

“For sure, it will be very difficult for me to sleep. But I think we must have the same sensation, me and my players, to change things in the next game and be positive.”

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