For the Chelsea fan, there is an air of impossibility before the second leg of the Champions League Quarterfinal against Real Madrid tonight.
Chelsea have to score two goals at Stamford Bridge in order to push the game to extra time. Historically speaking, playing on one’s home pitch can give the team on the wrong side of the aggregate an extra boost. However, two goals at home is a feat only accomplished thrice in the new year by the Blues (2-0 against Dortmund, 3-1 against Leicester City, and 2-2 against Everton).
On the topic of goalscoring woes, the primary issue is confidence. Not only from a player perspective with regard to his own abilities in front of goal, but also in terms of assurance in a manager’s system and style of play.
So, attacking players like Joao Felix, Raheem Sterling, and Kai Havertz continue to play in different systems. And, similar to managers’ tactics this year, they are only consistent in their inconsistency.
All three of those players are underperforming on xG in the Premier League. For Felix, he has scored two from an expected 3.06 goals. For Sterling, four from an expected 6.14. And, finally, for Havertz, seven from an expected 11.52.
In terms of how Chelsea sets up over the course of the 31 Premier League matches this season, Chelsea changed their starting lineup 112 times, by far the most in the league, according to the Athletic.
This lack of confidence pervades all throughout Stamford Bridge. On Saturday, before the Brighton match, I saw a father and son with Chelsea scarfs walking down Chesson Road in West Kensington. I offered an “Up the Chels” as well as a fist pump. The father replied with, “We’re not going to win. I just want to see us score.”
Well, sir, I hope you enjoyed that Conor Gallagher belter outside the box. A heavy deflection gave the Blues their first goal in four games. It would be the only consolation in a game where Chelsea were run ragged on their home pitch by a firing Brighton side.
This is not to take away from that performance from the Seagulls. Roberto De Zerbi has this Brighton side looking like a real threat to the traditional powerhouses. You have the admiration from this Moulsecoomb man.
Much like the Gallagher goal on Saturday, the appointment of club legend Frank Lampard is supposed to make me feel at least a little better about this gut-wrenching whirlwind of a season. Yet, now that I think of it, I did not feel much before Super Frank’s appointment, and my numbness prevails post-appointment.
It reminds me of a story from my childhood. As a wee lad, I was running around barefoot in the chilly Memphis autumn. Before coming inside for a Disney Channel break, my dad stopped me and berated me for being shoeless. I told him I was fine and that my feet weren’t cold. He then stepped on my foot and asked how it felt. I said that I couldn’t feel a thing.
“Exactly. It’s supposed to hurt, Daniel,” he said.
So, as I look to this Real Madrid game and the rest of this season, I regret to inform that I have been in the cold too long. I love the Chels and I will tune in tonight as I always do, but if the result does not go our way, it will not hurt as it’s supposed to.