Chelsea are yet to win a match in 2018.
The latest failure for the Blues was being taken to a penalty shootout by Championship side Norwich City in midweek, in a match that saw three of their players cautioned for simulation and two sent off.
Add that to the draw with the Canaries at Carrow Road, the draw with Leicester at Stamford Bridge and two draws with Arsenal, and it makes for an underwhelming start to the calendar year. Not disastrous, just a cause for concern at this point.
Antonio Conte, meanwhile, has been involved in an increasingly vicious spat with Jose Mourinho. It has not only become personal, it is a petty reflection on the state of football in this country that this is lapped up with such excitement. Conte has mixed his stinging jibes at Mourinho with further complaints about his squad.
The Blues continue to be linked with players on a daily basis, as all the top clubs are.
Alex Sandro’s name is a good ‘un to get those giddy Chelsea fan clicks, while there has been widespread chatter about interest in Andy Carroll. Ross Barkley is the only player to arrive at the club this January. It’s likely it will stay that way.
At the turn of the year, Chelsea were set to take second-place from Manchester United. Their favourable fixtures had seen the Blues make up a lot of ground, and were building a cushion between themselves and fifth-place. This weekend they could slip out of the top four.
Another title was always improbable for Chelsea this season. The return to Europe, underwhelming summer business and the strength of the Manchester clubs made it nothing more than a longshot.
Not winning the biggest prize is one thing, but facing 2018/19 outside of the Champions League is all-the-more severe. This talk may seem premature for a club who are on a run of draws. The trouble for Chelsea, though, is that their fixture list means they are likely to lose ground on their top four rivals during February and March.
Between February 20th and March 31st, Conte’s side face Barcelona twice, Tottenham, both Manchester clubs away from home, and have to take on two teams that beat them earlier in the season in Burnley and Crystal Palace.
If Chelsea are not in the top four on February 19th, it would take a remarkable run to pull themselves into the Champions League spots. They could, of course, find a way past Barcelona and forget about the league, but their recent performances make that an almost impossibility.
Conte’s future at Chelsea is uncertain already. Would he survive if he took Chelsea to the Europa League? Well, we all know the answer to that, it’s just about if he walks before he’s pushed.
Chelsea replaced Roberto di Matteo after winning the Champions League and Carlo Ancelotti after winning the first double in the club’s history.
Conte might not want to stay at Chelsea next season, but that may well be out of his hands unless he guides the Blues to a dramatic turnaround in form before their cringe-worthily challenging February and March.
Written by Sam Cox
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_
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