What’s gone wrong at Chelsea this season? Why Blues are underperforming
Chelsea are on course for their lowest Premier League finish since 1996
and live on Freeview channel 276
Chelsea are currently experiencing one of their worst ever Premier League seasons and their defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League ended any slim hopes of silverware this season. The Blues currently find themselves in the bottom half of the table and they are 20 points behind the Champions League places with seven games to go making it almost mathematically impossible for them to play in Europe’s elite competition.
The West London club are also trailing in their pursuit of Europa League football and even Conference League qualification and it is increasingly likely that the club will be absent from Europe next season for only the second time in 25 years. Chelsea are on course for their worst ever points tally in the Premier League with just 39 points from 31 games, while they are also set to finish in the bottom half of the table for the first time since 1996.
Chelsea have spent a record breaking amount of over £600 million on new recruits this season and they have even smashed the all-time record transfer fee in the Premier League with the signing of Enzo Fernandez for £106.8 million. But what has gone so drastically wrong for Chelsea this season and what do the Blues need to do to return to the top of the Premier League table?
What’s gone wrong at Chelsea this season?
Change of ownership
Todd Boehly purchased Chelsea for £4.25 billion in May 2022 - signalling the end of the Roman Abramovich era after 19 years. During Abramovich’s time as owner Chelsea won 21 trophies including five Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues.
However, the last six months of Abramovich’s ownership were dominated by controversy amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Chelsea were unable to sell or sign players or offer any new contracts in the final months of his tenure.
This in turn led to the departure of a number of experienced players on free transfers including Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso who had all been regular fixtures in and around the first team in previous seasons.
This left the Blues extremely short on numbers in certain areas of the pitch and led to a number of big changes.
The sacking of Thomas Tuchel
When Todd Bohely arrived as owner of Chelsea he promised that the club would have a more long-term approach to managers and not follow the hiring and firing strategy that was set by his predecessor Roman Abramovich. Despite these comments we are less than 12 months into the American’s tenure and he has already fired two permanent managers this season in Thomach Tuchel and Graham Potter, which is higher than any campaign during Russian’s reign as owner.
Of all the 12 managerial departures in the whole of the Premier League this season the most surprising was Chelsea’s decision to part company with Thomas Tuchel. The German was hugely successful during his 18 month stay at Stamford Bridge and he guided the club to a Champions League triumph in 2021.
Tuchel followed that achievement up with a 3rd place finish, whilst narrowly missing out on glory in both the League Cup and FA Cup final after penalty shoot-out defeats to Liverpool. Given the conditions he was working under last season and the uncertainty surrounding the Chelsea ownership, Tuchel did well to keep the team performing well on the pitch.
Tuchel’s departure came as a shock to most Chelsea fans and he was sacked just six games into the season with The Blues fifth in the Premier League table. Chelsea had 10 points from their opening six games at the time of Tuchel’s departure despite disappointing defeats to Southampton and Leeds.
Since his departure the Blues have managed to pick up just 29 points from 25 games - meaning Tuchel has helped Chelsea to pick up over a quarter of their points this season.
Chelsea have spent a staggering amount of around £600 million on new players this season and they were the biggest spenders in both the summer and the January transfer window. Despite this mass influx of new players, they currently look a shadow of the side which we have seen in previous seasons and club captain Thiago Silva has even called on the club’s hierarchy to put a “strategy in place.”
After April’s defeat to Real Madrid the Brazilian revealed that the club has had to “increase the size of the changing room because it didn’t fit the size of the team.” Having such a high number of talented players sounds like a luxury in some respects due to squad rotation, but it can be a huge task for a manager to keep everyone happy when they are not playing.
Chelsea have often changed the formation and system during several different games this season and such high rotation can make it difficult for a team and a manager to build up any kind of fluidity and chemistry on the pitch. So far this season several of Chelsea’s new recruits are yet to hit the ground running and the likes of Kalidou Kouilabaly, Raheem Sterling and Marc Cucurella are all yet to hit the ground running.
Chelsea strikers Joao Felix and Pierre Emeric Aubamayeng have struggled to find any form in front of goal and the pair have scored just three goals between them this campaign.
Injuries to key players
Thomas Tuchel’s success at Chelsea was largely based on the impact of the club’s wing backs and the likes of Reece James and Ben Chillwell both played important roles in the club’s road to Champions League glory in 2021. The two both offer a threat for the Blues going forward and are key providers for the teams attackers with their crossing deliveries. However, for large parts of the season the pair have been absent due to injury problems.
N’Golo Kante was the PFA player of the year during Chelsea’s last title win in 2016/17 and the man of the match in their Champions League triumph in 2021. However, he has managed just four appearances in the Premier League this season due to injury. The Blues are also heavily reliant on the leadership of defender Thiago Silva and they have struggled defensively when he has been out of the team with injury.