Chelsea offer evidence of Premier League weakness…

Date published: Tuesday 25th February 2020 10:15

Chelsea fans were singing about 2012 but in 2020, they are a million miles behind...

“1-0 and you f***ed it up,” was the chant not long after kick-off at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea fans gleefully crowing about their unlikely 2012 Champions League victory against Tuesday night’s German opposition. A diminishing handful were still singing the same song just before the hour mark, somehow not silenced by Serge Gnabry’s four-minute double. This time, not even those still-bellowing few could believe for a second that this Bayern would be 2-0 and f***ing anything up, or that Chelsea would be remotely capable of a comeback.

This last-16 clash largely followed the pattern of that Champions League final of eight years ago, with a dominant Bayern enjoying the majority of possession and creating the better chances. But this Bayern Munich side boasts the phenomenal (in the truest sense) Robert Lewandowski rather than Mario Gomez, while Chelsea would not have a striker of Didier Drogba’s pedigree even if they channelled Weird Science to combine the strengths of Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham. This was exactly the mis-match many predicted between the in-form leaders of a competitive Bundesliga and the inconsistent fourth-best side in an incredibly poor Premier League.

This is a Chelsea team on course for the lowest points total of any fourth-placed Premier League side since David Moyes’ honest but limited Everton side of the mid-2000s (top scorer was Tim Cahill with 11). This is not a good Chelsea team. How much you want to excuse them because of their youth, the loss of Eden Hazard and a transfer ban – though they did finish third and win the Europa League last season – are questions for another day, but what we saw on Tuesday night was a reminder that a bizarre domestic season which has seen five of the traditional Big Six go backwards could in turn see English clubs stutter in Europe.

Chelsea have not won a last-16 tie in the Champions League in six years and any chance of ending that dismal run entirely disappeared when Lewandowski made it 3-0 while Abraham failed to even muster a shot in his half-hour on the pitch. This felt an awful long way from 2012.

Glenn Hoddle and Darren Fletcher spoke repeatedly of ‘learning curves’ and ‘works in progress’ and that is certainly the kindest tack to take on a night when the gulf between Germany’s best and England’s distant fourth-best was cruelly exposed. It was certainly a reminder that we cannot truly judge Frank Lampard as a manager until he has had the chance to spend money on this Chelsea side; to buy a left-back; to buy a central defence; to buy a striker; to buy absolutely anybody that will keep Ross Barkley away from the pitch.

His task now is now no longer to reach the quarter-finals of this Champions League – that dream all-but disappeared with the draw before the remnants were utterly crushed at Stamford Bridge – but purely to reach this stage again. To end the Premier League season as one of the tallest dwarves. Luckily, Manchester City’s European suspension has given them an added safety net they will likely need. Even after victory over Tottenham, they are 11th in a calendar year table. Right now they are not even in the class of Burnley, never mind Bayern Munich.

Sarah Winterburn

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