Five draws in seven games have turned Chelsea’s title tilt into what could yet be a scrap for Champions League football and cracks are starting to widen…
Chelsea’s league form has now reached a crisis point after yet another draw against a team that specialises in them.
It had only been 20 days since Brighton last denied Chelsea by hitting back for a 1-1 draw and they were once again full value to do so in this quickfire return fixture.
Having dropped points in four of their first 14 games of the Premier League season, Chelsea have now done so in seven of their last nine. A title challenge has disappeared and now even the rock-solid top-four spot is now under some kind of threat: if (and this is a very large if) Spurs win their next two games, they will be five points behind Chelsea with three games in hand.
Even as a hypothetical, that’s an alarming position for Chelsea to have found themselves in. Although in truth they will probably be grateful to be facing Tottenham this weekend given the uncomplicated way they sorted Spurs out in the league earlier this season and both legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final. Uncomplicated has been in short supply for Chelsea recently.
Even the big positive from this game came shrouded in a negative, Hakim Ziyech appearing positively furious to have scored his second Premier League goal of the season and spending much of the game in a running and heated dialogue with the entirely ineffective Romelu Lukaku, who at one point in the first half lost his cool over a pass that must have been all of half-a-yard misplaced. This is suddenly a fractious, weary, discontented team and it needs sorting.
Marcos Alonso, given a torrid time by Raheem Sterling at the weekend, found life scarcely any easier against a marauding Tariq Lamptey, was booked again and perhaps fortunate to avoid a red card for a late trip on Brighton substitute Solly March.
Brighton, though, are a really very good football team. They are almost an excellent one, and nobody anywhere needs telling what it is that leaves them short. However well worked the training-ground routine for the corner that brought a richly deserved equaliser may have been, the facts are that the Seagulls managed just two shots on target in a game they controlled for long spells.
The way they play out from the back against even the best of Premier League opponents is something to behold as, less happily, is the final ball that tends to follow all this good stuff.
It’s no surprise to see Graham Potter linked to the Everton job this week because he is doing extraordinary things at this club. Even more so than when linked with Spurs in the summer, he would clearly be a fool to head to the basket case at Goodison, and Potter is no fool. He’ll go nowhere for now. Something is happening at Brighton.
If Chelsea are drawing too many matches right now, the same is true of Brighton. For them, though, it’s not quite the same problem. They are three points behind Manchester United and only the top three have lost fewer games this season. I know, I know, but… imagine if they could score goals.
It is Chelsea, though, who have the bigger problems to solve. Restoring Mason Mount to the starting XI after his surprise omission against City did nothing to improve a limp attacking display and the Lukaku Situation is beginning to dominate the conversation around Chelsea’s missteps, whether through his presence or absence.
Thomas Tuchel has enjoyed a stunning first year as Chelsea boss and the second year still holds rich promise. But only if some compelling answers are swiftly found to some thorny questions.