Chelsea have not had a great start to the 2022-23 season and already sacked their previous manager Thomas Tuchel a little over a month in.
Their first outing under newly appointed manager Graham Potter was not so great either, as they drew their Champions League group match against RB Salzburg, 1-1.
Chelsea now have a solitary point from their two Champions League matches. In addition, they are in sixth place in the Premier League table after six matches. They have only won a couple of their league matches this season and their supporters will definitely hope for a better display in the upcoming fixtures.
Here are three reasons for Chelsea’s below-par showing in the current season.
Inability to finalize defensive set-up
Chelsea used to play with a back-three under Tuchel, but Potter made his team switch to a back-four in the match against Salzburg. However, barring Thiago Silva, no Chelsea defender has featured regularly in the starting 11 so far this season. Kalidou Koulibaly, Chelsea’s new signing from Napoli, impressed in the first few matches, but saw a red card against Leeds United and has hardly played since.
Moreover, Tuchel’s questionable decision of playing Reece James in the back-three and switching Ruben Loftus-Cheek to the right wing-back’s position hurt the Blues considerably. Chelsea looked a much better side with James venturing forward down the right flank. Tuchel was forced to shift James to the right wing-back’s position against Leeds after his side were trailing, but the damage had been done.
Potter shifted to a back-four with Cesar Azpilicueta partnering Thiago Silva at the centre of defense against Salzburg. However, it can be safely predicted that Potter will need Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana’s services this season as the veteran Azpilicueta might find it difficult to withstand the pressure of playing as a centre-back on a regular basis.
Chelsea shows lack of creativity in midfield
This may be a clichéd reason, but its reality cannot be denied this. Chelsea played with a 3-4-3 formation under Tuchel, which meant they only had a couple of midfielders at the centre of the park. N’Golo Kante’s prolonged absence to an injury meant they lacked a genuine ball-carrier venturing into the opposition half through the midfield.
As a result, Chelsea’s attacks were primarily made through the flanks with the wing-backs and wingers like Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount playing a crucial role. However, opponents have defended deep, making sure their full-backs stayed back in order to block Chelsea’s attacks.
Potter has opted for a 4-3-3, shifting Mount to central midfield and playing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the centre-forward. This tactic might work as it would allow Mount to create moves from deep and also draw a marker from the opposition team towards himself, thus creating a gap in the defense.
Inappropriate team selection and player rotation
Sterling and Havertz have played in all of Chelsea’s matches this season and Mount has featured in all but one. While Sterling has four goals and a few assists to show for it and thereby justify his inclusion, Havertz has scored only once and Mount is yet to open his account.
The poor performances of these last two have made Chelsea supporters question the team selection, given the fact players like Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic have been given less game time. Ziyech has played in only four games this season — as a substitute on each occasion.
One might expect a more judicious approach from Potter as far as team selection and rotations are concerned. Chelsea might definitely do with Ziyech’s playmaking abilities and his crosses from either wing or Pulisic’s speed and agility. It remains to be seen how those resources are to be utilized by Potter in the future.