Chelsea were handed a 3-0 defeat, their first of the Champions League campaign, on Tuesday night at the hands of a petulant AS Roma.
The Blues may have felt justifiably hard done by when Stephan El Shaarawy drove a fierce strike past Thibaut Courtois after just 39 seconds, but the second goal was by all accounts inexcusable, as a howler by Antonio Rudiger saw El Shaarawy convert a long range effort to double the advantage for the hosts towards the end of the first half.
Roma began the second half on song and the pressure eventually told when an unmarked Diego Perotti with a country mile of space fired home from 20 yards to put the result beyond reach for the visitors.
Signs of Chelsea’s penetrable defense were evident on the opening day of the season when they conceded three goals to Burnley- eventually losing the game 3-2-, but their ineptitude reached a fever pitch against a side playing catch up in Serie A.
The performance was a pittance compared to the Chelsea of old, so much that they could have endured more punishment had Roma been clinical.
Experimenting with the defensive selection without question formed the genesis of the problem. In fact, Antonio Conte has been making inexplicable changes in his team selection that has left plenty to be desired.
A classic case was when David Luiz, a seasoned center back, started in midfield during the 3-3 draw with Roma at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago.
Cesar Azpilicueta has been constantly reshuffled from his natural position, but nothing could be compared to switching Pedro to right back against Roma. As manager, Antonio Conte should shoulder the heaviest responsibility for the defeat.
N’Golo Kante looked set to play against the Italians after a month long absence due to injury, but the midfielder’s return was further prolonged after concerns over his fitness and preparedness.
The decision to leave out the Frenchman was understandably justified, given the extra precaution taken by clubs on a FIFA World Cup year, but the inability to cope without his presence is a cause for concern for all and sundry.
The thrashing will do little to brighten the mood at the Bridge, more so ahead of the Super Sunday League clash with Manchester United. It may have fueled disgruntlement among supporters, but Antonio Conte has to arrest the decline before it gains traction.
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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