Crushing Defeat Could Signal Changes At Chelsea

Chelsea’s imminent surrender of their Premier League crown will top off what has been a disappointing season for Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Having been pitched into battle against Manchester United in the two biggest club competitions, they have fallen badly short in both. Not only did Sunday’s flattering 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford all but decide the title, the manner of it underlined the Blues’ inferiority in recent clashes with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. Chelsea had brilliantly clawed their way back into the title race, but their meek performance on Sunday overshadowed and tarnished their impressive run of late.

Inevitably the bulk of the scrutiny will be focused on Carlo Ancelotti. Rumours that the Italian is set to suffer the same fate as most of his predecessors at the hands of Chelsea’s ever-demanding owners will only increase in the coming weeks. Prior to Sunday’s clash Ferguson sang Ancelotti’s praises: “Last season he did the league and FA Cup double with Chelsea. He doesn’t deserve to be questioned or [have his] future queried the way it has been this season” The Scot also mentioned the Italian’s dignity, which was in evidence again after the match in congratulating his opponents. Ancelotti’s track record is proven, but his team, just like in the Champions League, was simply not up to the task of competing with United. It was in stark contrast to their very strong recent form, which had suggested resumption of normal service, but the crushing nature of the defeat was too pertinent and could signal major changes.

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Chelsea were again comprehensively outplayed by United all over the pitch. Ashley Cole, whose form this season has not quite matched his previous heights, often came out of battles with Cristiano Ronaldo on top. On Sunday he was routinely skinned and outpaced by Antonio Valencia. Expensive centre-back David Luiz has shown his class going forward since signing, but suffered from defensive lapses yesterday that cost his side and incurred the wrath of his manager, earning him a half time substitution. Branislav Ivanovic was also far from impressive, lucky not be sent off after a series of fouls.

The Blues also lost out in midfield, with Frank Lampard and Michael Essien failing to exert their authority on the game in the manner that they have done in the past. Essien seemed to lack his usual energy and bite, while Lampard in particular has come in for criticism this season, with fitness problems doing nothing to quieten suggestions that his age is starting to catch up with him. Never the most mobile of players, he has always relied on his intelligence and his ability to score goals from midfield. While he unquestionably still possesses those qualities, at 32 it is starting to dawn on Chelsea fans that a stalwart of their team over the last decade could need replacing sooner rather than later.

The unsettling effect of trying to ease Fernando Torres into the team is a problem that will need to be solved in time for next season. It would appear that Didier Drogba has been shuffled towards the exit door for a while now, and although still a class act, at 33 he hardly represents the future of Chelsea. With Nicolas Anelka also the wrong side of 30 and not seeing too much action, it would appear that Chelsea are reliant on their £50m man eventually coming good. More new signings in the summer are inevitable, and alongside the likes of Torres, Luiz, and Ramires could be the key to Chelsea’s battles with United and other rivals in the coming seasons.

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