Perhaps the dip was always inevitable. A young squad, performing well above expectations and leading the Premier League from the start. There is so much to celebrate this season - finally reaching the Champions League again, finishing ahead of Tottenham, and pushing the title race into May. And while the title could yet tip Arsenal’s way, Manchester City’s squad depth, versatility, and star players simply look improbable to overcome. With the Gunners on shaky legs after a rough four-match stretch, they welcome in a club in even more dire form.
If Arsenal fans feel down after the last four matches, they only have to look across town to be reminded of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons when the club finished 8th. Chelsea will enter the match on Tuesday in 12th place with just four wins in their last 22 matches. Despite all of the attacking additions over the last two transfer windows, they have only managed one goal in the last seven matches. Chelsea have only finished lower than 6th once since the mid-90s (10th in 2015-16). How will the Blues close out this season to forget?
Ahead of this London Derby, we spoke with Dávid Pásztor, the Editor at SB Nation’s site for Chelsea Football Club - We Ain’t Got No History.
TSF: Arsenal have dropped nine points from their last possible 12. Chelsea have lost six of their last seven matches. Neither of these clubs are in form, so what level of confidence do you think we will see from both sides on Tuesday?
WAGNT: There are teams out of form, and then there is Chelsea. For us, this has been a theme for not just a few games or a few weeks. Some teams merely adopt losing. We’ve been molded by it, wallowed in its unsweet embrace. We have five (5) wins since the World Cup, in all competitions (23 games). We have lost five in a row in this current eight-match winless slide, scoring three goals total, one in the last seven (7!) games combined.
Playing Chelsea may be just what the doctor ordered for Arsenal. We played Brentford in our last game, who had been winless in six coming in. They easily dispatched the Blues at Stamford Bridge, 2-0. Nottingham Forest gave them a bigger challenge yesterday.
In years past, I would’ve been confident that even at our lowest, Chelsea would pull off a defining result (see the 2-0 win at Anfield with Gerrard’s slip to lose them the title in 2014, or the 2-2 against Spurs in the Battle of the Bridge that confirmed Leicester City’s title in 2016). I’m not sure this team have it in them right now.
TSF: Chelsea has had four managers this season. After trying Graham Potter, Thomas Tuchel, Frank Lampard, Maurizio Sarri, and Antonio Conte over the past few years, where does the club go from here? Does Mauricio Pochettino seem like a lock, and if so, will the club give him the time needed to sort out the Chelsea squad?
WAGNT: Yes, Pochettino looks to be a lock for the job, though he has yet to accept. He will likely get plenty of time and support from the club to sort out this mess — unless he gets worse results than Graham Potter of course.
That said, the ownership group often seems to be making decisions on a whim and with little to no obvious overall direction. And Pochettino can’t sort out that confusion in the board room. And you never really know in football. But the club tried very hard and for far too long to make Potter a success and if Poch can charm them just as well, he should have every opportunity to turn this team around.
Some have said that this is the “best” time to take over and manage Chelsea (in stark contrast to Potter’s claim that this is the “hardest job in football”). We’ve fallen so low, that surely the only way is up (as only relegation is below). There’s a lot of money in the club, we just need to invest it wisely and have more assured hands guiding us. Pochettino can hopefully be a solid part of that for a decent while.
TSF: The club has brought in a ton of players recently, but also have several with contracts expiring this summer or next - Kante, Pulisic, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi, Mount, Azpilicueta, Silva, Aubameyang, & Loftus-Cheek. When the new manager arrives how many of those nine players do you expect to exit this summer?
WAGNT: Every player you listed, and many more, could be on the chopping block (just as Jorginho suddenly found himself in January). We have over 30 first-team players in the squad at the minute, and that’s not counting Academy stars, loanees, and those on pre-arranged transfers who are expected to join in the summer.
Most of the exit rumors so far have concerned Mason Mount, though we will try one more time to extend his contract. N’Golo Kanté is in a similar situation. Others, like Mateo Kovačić, Thiago Silva, César Azpilicueta, or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might not want anything more to do with this mess of a rebuild even if we were keen on them staying (which may only be the case for Silva anyway). Hudson-Odoi has barely registered in our thinking all season while Loftus-Cheek has been an afterthought in the second half of the season despite his versatility and our struggles.
TSF: Todd Boehly certainly has come in and made his presence felt, both at the club and in general. He has spent a lot of money, but what is the mood from supporters toward him at the moment?
WAGNT: It’s been the worst Chelsea season in three decades. Boehly has started taking a lot of heat for that, as the face of the new ownership group who have come in, and started moving fast and breaking things in stereotypical Silicon Valley style (even though they’re not tech bros) — and that’s before all the silliness with managers and going ham with transfers, and so on.
The more measured assessment is that while all of that may have been necessary (we did need to revamp scouting, medical, marketing, and refresh the squad, too), it probably didn’t need to happen all at once and all so drastically and immediately.
Despite all that drama, if we can settle down and start turning things around next season, the mood will change just as quickly. The mob is fickle after all — especially if the new ownership also follows through on their intentions to build us a new gladiatorial arena as well.
TSF: What is your predicted starting XI for Chelsea and what will the final scoreline be?
WAGNT: Lampard has favored a 3-5-2 in our recent attempts to stem the flow of terrible results, but it’s anyone’s guess what he might do in this one. There are very few players deserving of “first-choice” status, and on some level, we should just start rotating through all available players and youngsters. I’m just hoping that we might score a goal, and maybe avoid embarrassment.
Thanks to Dávid and We Ain’t Got No History for taking the time to chat ahead of the match.