Former Real Madrid player and Chelsea Striker, Alvaro Morata, has been repeatedly identified as Chelsea’s biggest under-performer at the moment but Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to Leicester City showed that his present malaise has spread to many of his team-mates.
In truth, Chelsea were lucky to escape with a point. Their historice third consecutive 0-0 draw in all competitions was undeserved, and for all the wrong reasons.
A stalemate looks all the more disappointing, given Leicester have lost 12 of their last 14 games against Chelsea in all competitions, but had Chilwell not got himself sent off, it’s likely that Claude Puel’s adventurous approach would have been rewarded with a victory.
Morata and Eden Hazard started up front once again, which was unsurprising, with Antonio Conte seemingly having decided that 3-5-2 is the only way to go, after abandoning his preferred 3-4-3 following in light of his side’s a bad run in October.
Chelsea’s £55 million striker will take more criticism after a match in which the only thing he did of not was earn his sixth booking of the season – and rightly so. Morata has scored just three goals in all competitions since November 22.
However, he is not the only player performing poorly. Hazard still looks badly out of sorts, just as he did against Arsenal in midweek, and the Belgian was substituted for the third game in a row.
Hazard is under intense pressure to provide a creative spark for Chelsea, as the sole player who links Morata to his midfield, and he is also covering a huge amount of ground in the 3-5-2 formation, not least because so many of his team-mates are out of form and offering little.
In short, Hazard looks exhausted from carrying the Blues attack almost all on his own.
Cesc Fabregas is a genius creator but his spark and fluidity has ebbed away in recent months, and it was no surprise to see him come off at the same time as Hazard.
Conte decided against withdrawing Tiemoue Bakayoko but the midfielder still doesn’t look remotely close to justifying the club’s decision to sell Nemanja Matic and sign the ex-Monaco man for the same £40 million fee.
Pedro and Willian came on in place of Hazard and Cesc but they made little impact. Indeed, Pedro has been the player to have declined most since last season, when his crucial goals played a huge part in Chelsea’s title win.
Willian, perhaps, deserves more game time after some good performances against lesser opposition but with the club’s new, more cautious formation, his first-team chances have been limited.
Overall, the worrying thing was that with Puel having lined Leicester up in a bold 4-4-2 formation, they outplayed Chelsea for long stretches, as Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez played with the confidence that you would expect of a Chelsea player.
The Blues were fortunate to claim what was their fourth stalemate in a row. They are now nine points off their total after 23 games from last season but, even more crucially, trail Premier League leaders Manchester City by a whopping 15 points, having played one game more than Pep Guardiola’s side.
Conte’s reign at Chelsea has been great so far and, amid talk of him potentially leaving at the end of the season, most fans want to see him stay for at least another year.
However, the negativity among the fans has hit its highest levels since the Italian’s arrival as Chelsea boss, with their side no longer enjoyable to watch.
The Chelsea boss was raging on the touchline and he used up his substitutions after just 56 minutes, the earliest he has ever done so since taking charge.
Leicester deserved their point and the problems at Chelsea go well beyond just Morata’s malaise. It extends to a whole group of underperforming champions.