With Chelsea failing to fire on all cylinders so far this season, hovering around 4th place in the table, it appears as though the inconsistency they have shown may leave them struggling for a Champions League place. Despite the late winner against Wolves on Monday, Villas-Boas’ side have fallen victim to a run of poor results recently in games which could have seen them close the gap on their competitors at the top of the table. At the moment, they seem unable to breakaway from the scrap for fourth place.
It’s not as though United, City, Spurs, and Arsenal have been overly prosperous during the festive fixtures either, as many of the front runners have suffered surprise defeats and dropped points. But this leaves us asking questions as to the quality that the top sides in England possess, not only in their starting eleven but in their squad as a whole.
It becomes evident at this time of the season that teams have to rotate their starting players and keep the line-up fresh and energised. If you look at Chelsea in recent seasons, they have provided pace and penetration when going forward, particularly on the counter attack with the likes of Malouda, Anelka, Kalou, and Drogba. At the moment they still have this potential when going forward with Mata and Sturridge for example, but they don’t really look like they have the same sort of energy and impact to be able to spring into life or quickly generate attacks when necessary.
When Fernando Torres is on his game, he can drop off slightly and facilitate the quick movement of the ball and create space at the edge of the area. However, to score goals as well, he needs to be in top form and confident with his movement and involvement. Drogba is somewhat similar in that he can be a good focal point for an attack, but he has to have a real stand out game to have the necessary impact on is own as a striker.
You write him off one week and he will inevitably turn up and produce the goods Chelsea need, but the consistency in the team’s goalscoring is not really there any more. They need a 20-goal per season man to come in and inject some new life into the front-line, to fill the gaps when Drogba isn’t available and Torres isn’t scoring. It would also add another man to the rotation so the reliance on either Torres or Drogba to perform up front every week isn’t there.
The ever-increasing use of the lone-striker in modern English football frustrates me, particularly because it is often billed as a front three, with the two attacking wingers, when clearly there normally ends up being only one man anywhere near the penalty area most of the time. Chelsea don’t really need to have that extra man in midfield, they could adjust to what would pretty much be considered a 4-4-2, still with Mata and Sturridge offering width. If a new striker was introduced to the team, they could use this new goalscoring threat to supplement Torres or Drogba in the starting eleven and feed off one another.
At the moment, the way Chelsea tend to set up, they would need a striker who will always be in the box at the right time and on-hand to finish off attacking moves with momentum. Either way, it makes sense to me to invest in a new front-man who would undoubtedly have a job to do and bring rewards for the team, if they really want to challenge for the title and sure up their Champions League place.
They are options out there, and you would imagine that Chelsea have a reasonable chunk of money at hand if they want it. The impressive Porto Striker Hulk, Valencia’s Spanish star Roberto Soldado and Napoli’s frontmen Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi all seem suitable candidates for Chelsea. But Villas-Boas needs to be bold, register his interest and make decisions now if he is to direct Chelsea’s season towards success, otherwise he may pay the price in the summer.