A slump in form this close to Christmas would usually result in an irrecoverable slide down the table. Indeed, Chelsea do sit sixth. However they are only six points behind league leaders Liverpool. The reverse is true too, Chelsea are only five points clear of 14th placed Newcastle.
Chelsea entered December with a 0-0 draw to Tottenham, before a win against Leeds and a pair of successful UEFA Champions League group matches. Since then though, The Blues have lost to Everton 1-0 and Wolves 2-1.
So what has led to this drop in points, and why isn’t it the end of the world yet?
The Stuttering Forward Line.
Chelsea’s last two losses have been to fifth placed Everton and 10th placed Wolves. The Wolves match was heading for a draw before a late, late Pedro Neto goal swayed the result. The Everton match was similarly close. A Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty was all that separated the teams. Both losses were only by one goal. They weren’t exactly floggings.
The concern lies in the lack of attacking power. Striker Olivier Giroud has found some stunning form, scoring six goals in his four December starts in all competitions. However, around him has been misfiring. Timo Werner has been prone to missing shots from point blank, Kai Havertz hasn’t made an immediate impact and Hakim Ziyech hasn’t featured since the Leeds win at the start of the month. The hamstring injury that has plagued Ziyech is hopefully soon mended, with Frank Lampard suggesting the Moroccan – along with Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi – will be back training with the squad by next week.
Teams Around Chelsea
The teams around Chelsea have been equally inconsistent. Liverpool – despite finding recent form – have managed to get 11 points from their last five matches. Second placed Spurs have eight from their last five – including a loss to Liverpool. Third placed Southampton also have eight from their last five, while Leicester have earned six, Everton have 10 and Chelsea have seven.
Interestingly, there are three teams beneath Chelsea that would expect to be higher. Manchester City, Manchester United and Wolves. All three are on 20 points and sit eighth, ninth and tenth respectively. Of these three, Manchester United is in the best form. Although the Manchester Derby ended in a boring 0-0, United entered that match off the back of four straight league wins.
Between now and the New Year, Chelsea have three more matches. West Ham before Christmas on the 21st, and Arsenal on the 26th and Aston Villa on the 28th. West Ham are just one point and one place below Chelsea. Arsenal are 15th and Aston Villa are 11th.
Leicester are going to prove very important in determining where Chelsea finish the year. They have matches against Southampton and Manchester United, which will both have an impact on Chelsea regardless of the result of their games.
The Realistic Aim
Frank Lampard’s men should be looking at at least seven points from the possible nine. A perfect nine would obviously be ideal, six would be satisfactory, while anything less would be a disappointment.
West Ham have been similarly inconsistent and should result in three points at the Bridge. Arsenal have been struggling lately, but loom as a potential banana skin. A cross-town rival at The Emirates Stadium, table position rarely matters come match day. Aston Villa at home should also be three points.