Anybody who watched the last three games of Chelsea will have concluded that they are not unbeatable. It was more than likely that their winning streak in the Premier League of 13 consecutive games was going to end. It did, though fans will be disappointed that it had to end in the hands of their North London rivals, Spurs.
The form that their squad as a whole showed during their incredible run means that the Premier League title is theirs to lose. Cesc Fabregas deserves all the plaudits he’s getting for keeping his head down and producing moments of genius whenever he’s given the opportunity. But, his constant inclusion also gives off another, less-sweet vibe. That is, N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic are suffering a loss of their sumptuous form.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re still solid. But, Matic, especially, has gone down in his ability to pick out the front three in tight spaces, which paid dividends earlier on when Chelsea had just switched to this peculiar formation.
The criticism of Kante may feel unfair and unjust, but he’s been somewhat erratic these past few weeks with his ball distribution, mishitting some rather simple passes in the opposition half. Short of concentration is hardly the term you’d think of describing the wonderful Frenchman with, but it seems suitable in this scenario.
And thus, Fabregas has been able to take advantage of the two defensive midfielders’ recent lack of form. However, Chelsea’s best passer is quite clearly not ideal for playing side-by-side only one of Kante or Matic, especially against attack-savvy opposition. Conte is more than likely to give Chalobah a chance in the role given the impressive display the youngster put on against Peterborough earlier today.
Further back, defensive issues have resurfaced for the Blues. The trio of Azpilicueta, David Luiz, and Gary Cahill have finally started capitulating and conceding goals. The form of David Luiz has dropped in recent weeks, no longer hitting the perfectly timed tackles, and appearing uncomposed.
Of the wing-backs, while Marcos Alonso seems to have grown in his defensive mold, Victor Moses has lost his early form, not marauding forward with equal vigor and equal decisiveness in recent games, while at the same time he’s made some critical errors on the defensive side of things, though because he’s not a natural defender, it’s unfair to expect him to be able to adapt to this new position as quickly as many thought he’d already done.
Chelsea’s defensive frailties were exposed in the last few games, and therefore Conte should act quickly to get some quality reinforcements in while the side are still benefitting from their winning momentum. A central defender is still needed, as is a wing-back. A two-way central midfielder (preferably with Kante’s coverage and Fabregas’ passing) should still be on his list for this January. Chelsea have conceded 5 goals in their last 3 games. The warning signs are there, and Conte needs to find the solutions quickly, even if it means switching out from this 3-4-3 system.