Club Focus – Chelsea – If home is where the heart is, Blues need to re-discover their pulse

Revamp as opposed to revolution should be the chosen course of action for Chelsea this summer in order to retrieve their surrendered Premier League crown. But it looks like happening off the pitch as well as on, with manager Carlo Ancelotti expected to be dismissed after a season of disappointment. While Chelsea’s 2-2 draw against Newcastle last Sunday will hardly have helped Ancelotti as he goes into crunch talks with the club’s owners about his future, it did underline a problem that has beleaguered the Blues at times this season – that teams seemingly no longer fear visiting Stamford Bridge as they may once have done.

The Blues need to re-establish Stamford Bridge as a fortress again next term after having been uncharacteristically vulnerable in front of their home fans this season. Although title challengers Manchester United (2-1), Arsenal (2-0) and Manchester City (2-0) were successfully dispatched, Chelsea have lacked conviction at times in home games, taking 45 points from 19 games compared to 52 last season, as points were dropped late in drawn matches against Everton, Aston Villa and indeed Newcastle. Damaging defeats were suffered in the league against Sunderland (0-3) and Liverpool (0-1) as well as falling at home in both the FA and Carling Cup, while a 1-0 reversal at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their quarter-final tie against Manchester United proved fatal to their Champions League hopes.

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After starting the season rattling in 12 goals without conceding in their first three home games and winning their first six at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s home form suffered during their woeful mid-season slump, which saw just two victories and eight points lost from an available 18 between November and February. Though results improved with a six League game winning run in London, the Blues were level or trailing at half-time in nine of their last 11 home matches, suggesting a problem of starting slowly in games. Alternatively, newly appointed champions Manchester United have taken maximum points in all but one of their Premier League home games this season, taking 52 points from 18 games which was a crucial factor in their title victory.

Much like their points total, the goals have not flowed at home as successfully as last season when the Blues rattled in 68 goals on their way to the title. In contrast, this season the Blues have hit the net just 39 times, with West Ham (3-0) the only side to have been beaten by more than two goals since August, compared to last season when 11 clubs left Stamford Bridge nursing their wounds on the back of 3+ goal margins of defeats.

Home and away, Chelsea are heading for, statistically speaking, their worst season since 2002-03 in a number of unenviable categories, as they are set to post their lowest points total, most games lost, most goals conceded and least clean sheets in the last eight years, so it is unfair to pinpoint home form as the sole reason for the Blues relinquishing their title. It was still, however, a major reason for their slip to runners-up. A return to past form at Stamford Bridge could be crucial to a prospective gilt at the title next season.

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