Photo via Bleacher Report
A 0-0 draw to the Wolverhampton Wanderers on Jan. 27 concluded much more about Chelsea than met the eye.
To start, the match signified that, upon its conclusion, the Blues (8-6-6) were officially complete with over half of their 2020-21 Premier League campaign. Despite the hype coming into the year, the club, instead of sitting atop the Premier League table, sit in eighth heading into Jan. 28 action.
The more significant draw to the match (no pun intended), however, did not come in the result, but in the trend the Blues have set over the course of the season, and potentially their remedy to a problem seemingly getting worse.
After all, the match was the first Blues’ bout without (former) Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, and the first match under newly minted manager Thomas Tuchel.
The personnel change, however, will not be the sole area Chelsea fans will have to get used to. They will also have to get used to Tuchel’s potential resurrection of a Chelsea attack that, after a lavish transfer window spree, has remained tactically indecisive and barely explosive.
The problems on the attack could only be signified at its epitome in the 0-0 draw. It was Chelsea’s sixth-straight Premier League match where the club scored two goals or less, and their 12th match overall. While last season’s Chelsea squad had 29 such matches, this was with its expectancies – while the likes of Tammy Abraham, Christian Pulisic and Co. were definitely solid pieces to build around, there was more hope for explosiveness from the top of the lineup, especially in regard to the striker position. The issues were only further exacerbated by a thin back line and a goalkeeping situation that, to keep it short, left a bit to be desired.
Last season’s offensive discrepancies made sense. This season, however, was (and continues to be) a different story. The club’s big-ticket transfer acquisitions in Bundesliga stars Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, the two players supposed to fix the frontal scoring inconsistencies, have instead combined for five Premier League goals combined. Substitutions and adjustments to work around the problem remained stagnant on the club’s best days, and non-existent on their worst. Injuries and inconsistencies from Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech (another transfer window acquisition) only heightened the scoring problems even more and put increased pressure on a hit-or-miss back line and improved goalkeeping situation spearheaded by Edouard Mendy.
In total, a 200-plus million offseason has, in effect, been a flop up to this point. As such, Lampard was sacked, and now, the club must rekindle a fire of resiliency and claw its way back to the upper echelon of a highly competitive table. For the former UEFA Champions League runner-up and domestic quadruple manager in Tuchel, the work will be cut out for him. While the intensity and heightened awareness might lead to a more upward swing, the long-term outlook for the club, with its big-ticket players, will need to be addressed at some point, as well.
Will Tuchel make do with what he has in his Samford Bridge possession? Will he and Chelsea ownership attempt to reboot and start over? Will the status quo remain at mediocrity? These are the questions that will need to be answered in the ensuing months.
The 0-0 draw to the Wolves was all too familiar. The outlook moving forward now, however, will be if Tuchel can make it an anomaly as opposed to a continued norm.