What led to Chelsea missing out on a Champions League spot in the 2017-18 Season

Premier League winners of the 2016-17 season Chelsea Football Club! As soothing as it may sound to any Chelsea supporter’s ears, there came a sense of heavy insecurity considering the performance of Chelsea, over the years, after a successful season. Glimpses were seen in the 2015-16 season when they failed miserably after winning the previous season under Jose Mourinho. Antonio Conte had proven himself in the previous season which led to huge expectations from him in the succeeding one, and of you are the one who would like to gamble on Conte exceeding expectations and win the Champions League, a strong bet with a help of couldn’t go much wrong at the end of the season.

However, would Conte live up to them or would history repeat itself was something which only time could tell?

ATTACK

Rumors had already stated about a clash between two giant egos in the Blues’ dressing room. It didn’t come as a surprise when Conte did not include Diego Costa in his plans for the season, leading to a cold war between the two. The purchase of Alvaro Morata gave the supporters a lot of hope. But he clearly lacked experience and the ‘Field Presence’ which Diego Costa had. Although Morata scored 11 goals in the season, most of which were headers, he could not see his team through to take a Champions League spot. Also, his mid-season injury which led to a dip in his form, left Chelsea with Michy Batshuayi as the lone striker option to be availed. Batshuayi who was relatively young and inexperienced could not provide his team with crucial breakthroughs. The purchase of Olivier Giroud to fill this void was also not successful, leaving the attack as ‘one-dimensional’. The departure of Costa, mid-season injury of Morata, the inexperience of Batshuayi and less game time for Giroud cumulatively led to a weak attacking force.

MIDFIELD

The ineffectiveness of the strikers had an adverse effect on Eden Hazard who had to shoulder extra responsibility and pressure. Hazard was considered to be a superstar in the Premier League with his dribbling and scoring abilities. He lived up to it though by scoring on 12 occasions and assisting on 4. But, this took away his attention from his main role which was supposed to be of a playmaker which he effectively performed in the previous season. A lack of creative options to take the weight off Cesc Fabregas had also become apparent. Now, this led to more pressure on other midfielders. With Pedro, Bakayoko not in good touch, the midfield was heavily reliant on Willian and Kante. Moses and Alonso also played their respective roles but not to perfection. In my opinion, the single reason why Chelsea’s midfield didn’t live up to the expectations was the departure of Nemanja Matic. With Matic’s absence, Chelsea lacked cover for Ngolo Kante and also lacked interception of aerial passes. Timoue Bakayoko, who was brought in as a replacement for Matic, stood nowhere close to Matic’s performance. With the lack of pace, depth, interceptions and overall performance, the midfield appeared relatively weak in front of the other frontline clubs.

DEFENSE

With the departure of Nemanja Matic, the “cushion” was gone as far as the defence was concerned. Although, Ngolo Kante did his best to ease the job of the defenders, it was not enough. The likes of Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz lacked pace which was necessary to contain the young attackers in the league, which resulted in conceding a lot of goals which could have been avoided. Although the keeper was one of the best in the business, there is only so much that an individual can do without any support. Andreas Christensen also lacked experience which led to giving away crucial goals at crucial times in the context of the game. Antonio Rudiger caught the eyes of many due to his flamboyance, but he too like others failed to deliver at crucial times. With Alonso and Moses being given an advanced role, the defence was vulnerable with relatively slow and inexperienced players.

OTHER FACTORS

Apart from these, other factors like poor recruitment, poor squad management, the antagonistic nature of Antonio Conte, individual errors by players hugely contributed in the poor performance of the team at crucial times. A lack of player depth in the squad at various instances in this season sheds light on the entire recruitment fiasco. With players like Mo Salah and Kevin De Bruyne who were leading the running for a lot of awards, brings the player development processes of the club back into the spotlight. With two major fallouts with two big names in the club viz. Diego Costa and David Luiz, a lot of questions were raised regarding the toxicity in the dressing room which could have affected the morale within any squad of players. Considering all these factors and all the previous incidents regarding the flaws in the overall management of the club, a need for a rock solid system to be incorporated within the management is pretty evident.

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