On Sunday at the Vitality Stadium, Chelsea got the chance to bounce back against Bournemouth after the international break following a brutal defeat against Nottingham Forest (0-1). But nothing happened, or almost nothing, and the Blues were left with only a small point (0–0). Had Raheem Sterling still scored, the Londoners would have been unable to dominate a team that plays to keep up. At present even Chelsea is not playing much. Sitting 14th in the Premier League with 5 points in as many days, Todd Boehly’s side are struggling to recover from last season’s disarray at all levels. Many factors explain this, injuries top the list, but not only that.
Lucas Bergstrom, Djordje Petrovic, Alfie Gilchrist, David Washington, Alex Matos, Ronny Stutter… these names may mean nothing to you, and yet, they were on the Chelsea bench against the Cherries on Sunday afternoon. The players were accustomed to the youth ranks, not the first team. But Mauricio Pochettino was forced to call on some of them to complete the scoresheet. And with good reason, the Blues team is more decimated than ever. Like last year, in late 2022, Chelsea are seeing their hospital overcrowded. What’s worse is that almost all of the injured are part of the team’s senior players and also represent big investments.
Captain Reece James was injured on the opening day of the Premier League match against the Reds. Benoit Badiashile and Wesley Fofana have been unavailable for several months. Carney Chukwuemeka, key in the preseason and scorer against West Ham, has been injured, as well as Mark Cucurella, Trevoh Chalobah, Moises Caicedo, Christopher Nkunku, Armando Broza and Marcus Bettinelli. Not to mention Romeo LaVia, who was expected as the starting No. 6 but who won’t return for several weeks. A real massacre that hits the blues at the worst possible time. While Chelsea’s summer tour had been brilliant with a striking 4-2-3-1 formation, with Nkunku scoring a number of goals, the former RB Leipzig forward’s injury certainly caused the most damage to the London formation.
Mauricio Pochettino tinkers, but isn’t really a manual
According to Opta, in the last match against Bournemouth, Leslie Ugochukwu became the 37th Chelsea player to start in 2023. An insane statistic that reflects a lack of continuity within the club, not helped by repeated injuries and the ultra-aggressive policy of Todd Bohli on the transfer market. While awaiting the return of his best elements, Mauricio Pochettino still needs to muster a few wins to avoid a disaster scenario. So far, the Argentine has not been able to find fault against Liverpool and West Ham (1-1, 3-1), nothing bad, but he has also not been able to find a lead against Forest and the Cherries. (0-1, 0-0). Without forgetting the slow success in the Carabao Cup at home against Wimbledon (2-1).
It is mainly tactically that the former PSG tactician is faltering. Since the start of the season, Mauricio Pochettino has included Ben Chilwell on the left wing, as well as Levi Colville – a trained central defender – as a full-back on the same side. Two players out of position. The first captain since Reece James’ injury, he is one of the worst performers in the group and was even pushed to the bench on the last day, eventually opening the way for Mykhailo Mudrik. The system chosen by Argentina looks like a kind of modular 5-3-2, which is perhaps too much of a hybrid for a team seeking stability. In the preseason, the 4-2-3-1 looked attractive, but the consecutive defeats of Nkunku and Chukwuemeka troubled the vision of Mauricio Pochettino, who now uses only 2 attacking players: Raheem Sterling and Nicholas Jackson. If the Ukrainian Mudryk had made his debut in the championship, taking the place of his attacking partners, his performance – neither good nor bad – should not have made his coach’s point of view clear.
a patience that is expensive
“He is getting better. He still needs to learn, the Premier League is very fast, the pace of the game is very fast. I think it’s about trying to understand the game better, being more connected with the team sometimes. We need to give him the time and tools to improve throughout the season.”, Pochettino spoke at length about Mudrić, following his mixed performance. The former Shakhtar star epitomizes Chelsea’s lack of confidence and stability. After 19 Premier League matches in total (but only 783 minutes), the Ukrainian has still not found the net. Young Nugget, 22, has no fixed role and finds herself thrown around, fighting for crumbs at the end of meetings most of the time. If fans lose patience, Mykhailo Mudryk still has time left.
In recent weeks, several players have expressed their frustrations, even when compared to the team last season when the locker room was dysfunctional. mirror Thiago Silva remains “furious” at his teammates after the draw against Cherries, reports say, while Conor Gallagher expressed his irritation at Enzo Fernandez, who has just returned from South America. “We have to continue like this, but be more lethal in the opposing zone. That’s football. We have to keep moving forward because I think we are performing well on the pitch, but we have to take our chances when we get them.Explained Axel Disasi, who points out his team’s terrible lack of efficiency.
According to official Premier League statistics, the Blues have missed 12 famous big chances so far. A bitter comment for a club that will undoubtedly have to wait for the return of some officials before returning to adequate performances. Meanwhile and even though it is still far away, the end of the year already promises to be challenging on the menu: Arsenal (21/10), Brentford (28/10), Tottenham (6/11), Manchester City (12/11), Newcastle (25/11), Brighton (2/12) and Manchester United (6/12). The clock is ticking in south-west London and we need to take points as quickly as possible in the coming weeks to avoid an unbearable situation.