When Chelsea scored their third against Leeds in December, it was hard to dismiss they were mounting a serious challenge for the title. The Blues had fixed their defensive fragility and were fluid in attack; Frank Lampard had begun to see the consistency he so desired.
Flash forward a month later and it seems as if the Chelsea boss’ days are numbered after crashing back down to earth from a 17-game unbeaten run. Five defeats in their last eight games have left the Blues eleven points adrift of the top spot they were sat comfortable in just over a month ago.
So where did it all go wrong for Chelsea? Now 19 games in, exactly halfway through the season, this article looks at how each player has performed as the West London side find themselves worryingly below expectations in eighth place.
Edouard Mendy – When you are personally selected by goalkeeping royalty Petr Cech, you certainly arrive with high expectations. The import from Rennes has provided some much-needed reliability between the sticks and has helped instil confidence in and around the Blue’s 18-yard box. His ability with his feet has led to a few uncomfortable moments, but the Senegalese international overall has so far seemed a solid signing. 7/10
Kepa Arrizabalaga – The world’s most expensive goalkeeper’s fate seems pretty terminal. Falling behind Willy Caballero in the pecking order last season, the acquisition of Mendy has confirmed what we all knew – he’s not in Lampard’s plans. Expect him to start in minor cup fixtures, such as Luton this weekend, but make no mistake his time as first-choice number one is over. N/A
Ben Chilwell – Proving to be a clear upgrade on positional rival Marcos Alonso, the Englishman has offered more stability on the left side of defence while having plenty of joy in the final third too. Providing six goal contributions in 16 games, Chilwell has made a great start to life at Stamford Bridge and can only improve as he strives to achieve his goal of matching Ashley Cole’s legacy at the club. 7.5/10
Thiago Silva – What a coup for Chelsea. The veteran defender came to west London for free off the back of captaining PSG to a Champions League final, and it’s clear to see he remains one of the best centre-backs in world football. He was given a tough welcome to the Premier League, with a shaky performance in the 3-3 draw to West Brom but hasn’t looked back since and remains the glue that holds Lampard’s backline together. Assured on the ball and solid defending it. 8/10
Kurt Zouma – The towering defender is one of many winners from the signing of Silva, looking an invigorated man alongside the cover his experienced centre-back partner provides. The Frenchman has seemed to iron out the majority of his previously erratic nature and looks more composed on the ball, while retaining his trademark lunging slide tackles and aerial dominance. It is this in-air mastery that has seen him become Chelsea’s joint-second top goalscorer in the league this season and signifies his importance from attacking set plays. 7.5/10
Reece James – Quickly emerging as one of the most exciting prospects in the Premier League, the right-back has added defensive solidity to his game which boasts so much creative attacking prowess. Questions were asked last season, and rightly so, about his ability to defend one on one but this season James appears to be more assured. His early crossing is a deadly asset to the side and, coupled with Hakim Ziyech, he makes up one-half of the most creative right-sides in the league. 7/10
Antonio Rudiger – The curious tale of Antonio Rudiger summarises Lampard’s struggle to find his best starting eleven this season. Labelled fifth choice and free to leave in the summer, the German has suddenly found himself in the mix again, starting the last two league games as the Chelsea boss desperately searches for a solution to the team’s recent form. While looking solid against Fulham, a defensive lapse against Leicester on Tuesday should see Rudiger relegated back to the bench. 5.5/10
Marcos Alonso – Once described by Maurizio Sarri as having the potential to be the ‘best left-back in the world’, it now seems the Spaniard’s time is up at Stamford Bridge. Despite being a valuable weapon when the Chelsea boss looks to catch the opposition off guard with a 3-4-3, the signing of Ben Chilwell and a rumoured bust-up in September has seen Alonso sidelined ever since. Will Antonio Conte be opening his Inter Milan checkbook to save him? 1/10
Andreas Christensen – Another odd narrative is that of the Danish ball-playing defender. Starting the first three league games of the season, he was essentially keeping Thiago Silva’s seat warm. In those games, Christensen was sent off before half-time against Liverpool and was then part of the defence that shipped three goals against West Brom. Now he has seemingly fallen behind Rudiger in the pecking order, it seems his tenancy at Chelsea is going stale. There is talent within, but it’s looking more likely this needs to be honed elsewhere. 3/10
Cesar Azpilicueta – Such has been the meteoric rise of Reece James, the Chelsea captain has had to accept a reduced role at the club. Always Mr Dependable at the back, he provides a calm head and is a leader figure on the pitch when experience is required but is now making way for the next generation. James’ threat going forward and energy in getting up and down the touchline see him favoured. It will be intriguing to see what decision the Spaniard makes in the summer transfer window but make no mistake, it will be a very sad day whenever the club legend chooses to depart. 5/10
Fikayo Tomori – What has happened here? One of the shining lights in the first half of last season now finds himself completely frozen out. Rumours of a falling out behind the scenes have been whispered but nothing concrete confirmed and with a loan move to AC Milan, who have a buyout clause in place, it seems as if his Chelsea career is over as quickly as it started. Let’s hope, if let go, this doesn’t come back to bite the club à la Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah etc. N/A
Emerson – A member of the squad you often forget about until called upon, Emerson provides decent back-up and seems pretty content with life on the bench at Stamford Bridge. The Brazilian has performed ok when needed and offers a fairly standard service when it comes to both defending and attacking. Don’t be surprised to see him leave in the summer to raise funds. 4/10.
Mason Mount – Despite featuring alongside such midfield mediocrity this season, one man has improved exponentially on the pitch. Mount has been the stand out performer for Chelsea with his relentless consistency and athleticism to feature in nearly every game. It isn’t just running around like a headless chicken that brings him so much praise, the 22-year-old continually grabs the game by the scruff of the neck and drives the team on with a plethora of incisive passing and ferocious pressing. Needs to add more attacking returns to his game but this will come. 8.5/10
N’Golo Kante – Football’s most likeable man continues to offer much-needed protection for the Blues with his perfectly timed interceptions and ruthless pressing of the opposition. Claims that he is in decline seem harsh, but it’s fair to say he doesn’t look entirely comfortable alone in the holding role, despite the widely regarded belief it’s his best position. The lack of a proper defensive midfielder at the club means the World Cup winner has to fill in as the next best option when instead he is most effective freely roaming the pitch, making a nuisance of himself and winning the ball back. Could his tenure at the club be drawing to a close? 6.5/10
Mateo Kovacic – Last season’s player of the year continues to do what he does best this campaign, combining hard work with skill in possession, but at a reduced rate on the pitch. The Croatian has seen his game time lessened as he falls victim to Lampard’s riches in midfield depth. Kante and Mount will start when fit, so it is up to the remainder of central options to take their chance when they get it. Having spent around £70 million on Kai Havertz, you would imagine when he finds his feet that Kovacic will have to accept a permanent rotational role and it will be interesting to see if this is something he accepts. Still needs to add goals and assists to his game to really stand out. 6/10.
Kai Havertz – The wonderkid has failed to hit the ground running since his hotly-awaited summer move from Bayer Leverkusen. It is clear he needs time to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League and it’s easy to forget he is only 21. Patience is key and the German will soon prove why he is rated so highly in the footballing world. Last season, Havertz had 18 goal contributions in 54 appearances before the winter break, after this he provided a staggering 40 goals/assists in 64 games – he will come good at Chelsea. 5/10
Jorginho – The midfield conductor has remained a controversial figure at the club since ‘Sarriball’ turned into staleball midway through the 2018/19 season. He is another who seems to lack the pace and physicality needed to thrive in English football, but has emerged as a key figure both in the dressing room and leading when on the pitch. The Italian has fought hard to shake off the teacher’s pet image he had under Sarri and stayed to prove himself to the Stamford Bridge faithful. His game is another that has suffered this season, but it is clear Lampard values having him around. A quiet season for the regista. 5/10
Billy Gilmour – The Scottish prodigy has had a slow first half of the season, recovering from a knee injury sustained in July. He has only seen league action twice, but expect this number to increase as the Chelsea boss continues to look for more fight and tenacity in his team; Gilmour brings this in abundance. The 19-year old’s aim for the closing half of the campaign should be to retain the spot he earnt last season, following back to back man of the match performances against Liverpool and Everton before lockdown. He has looked impressive in cameo appearances thus far in cup games, but hasn’t featured enough to warrant a rating. N/A
Faustino Anjorin – An exciting prospect who has taken his chances well in cup competitions. Not good enough to challenge as of yet but seems to have a bright future ahead. Don’t be surprised to see him leave on loan next season. N/A
Hakim Ziyech – The Moroccan, dubbed the wizard, has certainly provided some spellbinding performances, but his Chelsea career has thus far been plagued by injury – only featuring in ten league games. His wand of a left foot has the potential to unlock the tightest of defences and it’s clear Blues fans have only seen a fraction of his capabilities that persuaded the club to bring him to west London. A goal and assist away at Burnley followed by two assists against Sheffield United showed how crucial the winger can be when on form. Expect a lot more to come. 7/10
Christian Pulisic – Last season’s breakthrough star has had a tough first half of this campaign following his hamstring injury in August’s FA Cup final. The winger is now starting to enjoy a consistent run in the team and Lampard will be praying he can hit similar form to his performances post-lockdown over the summer. His quick feet and dazzling dribbling in the number 10 jersey are reminiscent of Eden Hazard’s unique ability to glide past players with ease; the sky really is the limit for the American starboy. If he can stay fit, expect Pulisic to be crucial for Chelsea’s resurgence for the top four. 5.5/10
Timo Werner – Chelsea fans are still scratching their heads as to what has happened to the German forward. His confident start to the campaign saw him bring goals, assists and plenty of penalties won yet now he just cannot find the back of the net when it matters. It’s clear the 24-year-old, who scored 34 goals last season, is best when running in behind but has struggled to find success in this method as Premier League teams tend to sit a few yards deeper. He continues to find himself in the right positions to score, which sets him aside from comparisons made to Alvaro Morata, and for this reason, Blues fans should be confident he will come good. 6/10
Tammy Abraham – The club’s top scorer last season has once again proven himself to be a great option when starting and off the bench, offering goals and assists thus far. Chelsea’s number nine is far from the finished product but offers the most rounded skillset in terms of pace, finishing and link-up play. Such is the nature at Stamford Bridge, the harshest questions will always be asked of the strikers as the monumental Diego Costa sized hole remains to be filled by a goalscorer as prolific as the Spaniard. Yet, Abraham takes his chances well and his hounding of the opposition backline always causes issues. Seems too good for the bench, yet not quite reliable enough to start week-in, week-out. 7/10
Olivier Giroud – The World Cup winning target-man oozes class and has once again proven himself to be a top professional. Giroud was pivotal to Chelsea competing in the Champions League this season with his performances post-lockdown last year, and this season has sent reminder after reminder to Lampard that he should be starting. His movement and link-up play is up there with the best in world football and the Frenchman, despite initially being frozen out, has once again started delivering the goods when the star-studded signings aren’t. Despite his age, the 34-year-old is Chelsea’s best striker on form and you can always rely on him to deliver the goals. 8/10
Callum Hudson-Odoi – We are now beginning to remember why there was so much hype around the local lad from Wandsworth. Looking like he’s shaken off the demons of rupturing his achilles, the winger is playing without fear again and his directness is asking all sorts of questions of opposition defences. His form will be giving the Chelsea boss a serious headache as he looks to select his best front three and with performances like that off the bench against Fulham it wouldn’t be surprising to see him be the boost the Blues’ attack needs going forward. Maintain consistency and he’ll be a key figure in the team. 7/10