Perhaps for the Chelsea of last year, this would have been one of those games. The type of “gritty” and “determined” game that has the Graeme Souness’s and Glenn Hoddle’s of the world declaiming this is the sort of game potential champions have to grind out if they wish to earn a title.
However, this season’s Chelsea are most certainly not sitting with their feathers preened up at the top of the table. They are firmly ensconced in the bottom half at 15th, only two points ahead of 16th placed Norwich. Incidentally, the same Norwich they managed to garner three points against in a particularly unspectacular 1-0 victory, so it was something of a quasi-relegation battle.
It would be exceptionally charitable to declare the affair anything but dull. For the Canaries, gloalkeeper John Ruddy, was the standout man of the match. There are a few meagre positives Chelsea can take from the game: Pedro looked to have his head in the game for the first time since his Chelsea debut, and Nemanja Matic looked a shadow of his former self’s silhouette at the very least.
Despite Chelsea’s favourite utility player Ramires making overtures prior to the game that Chelsea only required one win to get their confidence back, this match will not have imbued fans of the Blues with much joy. It was a game entirely symptomatic of Chelsea’s season thus far: defensively frail, and unable to make incursions into the opposing team’s six yard box – instead opting to pussyfoot indecisively about the edge of the penalty area.
It was Diego Costa who managed to draw even the ire of the discontented home fans at the Bridge, despite netting the only goal of the game. In a performance that was eerily reminiscent of Fernando Torres’ nadir at Chelsea, Costa could frequently be found drifting onto the wings, with a distinct lack of attacking purpose. Several times there were balls put right into the danger zone, but with no striker in evidence in the box to receive them they would simply trickle out for a goal kick. With an inconsistent Loic Remy and a lacklustre Radamel Falcao as back ups, Chelsea will likely be exploring new options up front in January.
Although Chelsea may have been granted a grace period of a victory and a far less truculent Jose Mourinho managing to keep his head out of the press, the players still seem stuck in a malaise that does not have the look of being shaken very soon.