Chelsea FC might have changed their manager, but they are nowhere near to being back to their Premier League winning selves that they were last season.
The return of Guus Hiddink was expected to change things around for the Blues, who are desperately looking to put some distance between them and the relegation zone. However, as matches go by, they seem to be inching closer to the bottom three with a flurry of meaningless draws.
This is not something that is going to please the Chelsea FC fans, but compared to the unrest that we saw in the stands earlier in the season, the Chelsea FC faithful seem to have calmed down a lot more, and are backing the team. But the lack of good results is something that is not going to please them.
Still the same miserable midfield
A lot was expected of the Dutchman, but just about one month into his second term as the Chelsea FC manager, the Blues have not really improved much. The main reason for that could be the fact that Hiddink himself has not changed much of the Chelsea FC setup.
To be fair to the Dutchman, he was thrown into the mix in the busiest part of the season when the matches come on thick and fast. Hence, we are seeing a more or less similar Chelsea FC outfit that is struggling to get results.
The main reason for these indifferent performances has been the midfield, that is simply not up to the mark. In the previous season, the Cesc Fabregas-Nemanja Matic combination had worked wonders for Chelsea FC, but the former seems to have lost some of his golden touch this season.
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The two pivots are very crucial to the 4-2-3-1 formation, and in Chelsea FC’s case, they have not been consistent at all which may be why the Blues have been suffering. Be it Fabregas-Matic, Mikel-Matic, or Fabregas-Mikel, none of the combinations have worked out quite well, with the duo being overpowered in the middle of the park.
Under Hiddink, the Chelsea FC midfield pivots have had an average of 150.2 touches in the Premier League matches. In comparison, Manchester United’s Bastian Schweinsteiger alone had 109 touches in the middle of the park, when the Blues visited Old Trafford last month. In fact, the combination of Matic and Mikel had fewer touches (105) than just Schweinsteiger in that particular match.
Creative three redundant without Fabregas’s passing
As a result of the midfield pivots failing to do their work properly, the three creative midfielders suffered, failing to enforce their creativity into the games. The trio of Pedro, Willian and Oscar are extremely creative players in their own right, but they need to be fed the ball in the attacking half of the pitch, for them to work their magic.
It is only in the last match against Everton, that the creative players really got going. However, that too was only in the second half, after Chelsea FC went 2-0 down at home against Everton. In a bid to try something different, Hiddink had started with Mikel and Matic as the midfield pivots, and Fabregas in the no. 10 position with Pedro and Willian flanking him.
However, the Dutchman reverted back to the usual plan of playing Fabregas in a deeper role, when he brought on Oscar instead of Matic. That, coupled with the urgency of having to cancel out a two-goal deficit, saw a good performance by the Pedro-Oscar-Willian trio. This also raised Fabregas’s game, who made 100 passes during the match with an 87 percent accuracy.
Fabregas also played three extremely crucial passes in the match, one of which resulted in striker Diego Costa going through on goal, to score in an empty net.
The three attacking midfielders have had 156.4 touches per game under Hiddink in the Premier League. However, against Everton, when Fabregas started dictating the play, Pedro, Willian and Oscar had taken 171 touches.
This stat is a bit skewed, as Oscar had come into the play only after the 55th minute. The number could have been higher, had Chelsea FC (and Fabregas) been playing in the same tempo with the same men throughout the match. The Blues need more performances like this from their midfield five, if they want to do better in the rest of the season.
Defence still a big worry
Under Hiddink, Chelsea FC have conceded seven goals in five Premier League matches, which is very unlike any Chelsea FC side. However, the Blues have obviously not been their usual selves this season, and that is clearly showing in the way they have been playing.
It is quite understandable, with an ageing John Terry and a not-yet-fully-experienced Kurt Zouma playing as centre-backs, and the balance just not apparent. The Blues have enough height in their team, but their big issues seem to be while defending low crosses and shots, as both Gary Cahill and Terry have scored own goals from these kind of situations.
That being said, the Blues have seen some rare clean sheets under Hiddink (three in six games in all competitions), and that must surely please the fans, as well as the manager. It is down to the two midfield pivots to work hard, and help out in defence. The dutchman has been playing Mikel a bit more often than his predecessor, because he wants that defensive workrate from the midfield.
Due to these strategies, Hiddink has not been able to get either a win or a loss in the Premier League. It has just been a flurry of draws so far under the Dutchman. It’s clear that Chelsea FC are still a work in progress, and it would be interesting to see where the Blues go from this miserable position.
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