Terrace Talk: Chelsea - Our castle is built on sand and tide is coming in

Chelsea’s poor form since Christmas has gone almost under the radar. It has seen us fall from third on the coattails of United to fifth and the ignominy of following another league-winning season by failing to qualify for the Champions League.

Terrace Talk: Chelsea - Our castle is built on sand and tide is coming in

It’s pretty depressing. Not going to bother churning out our transfer activity again — it’s well documented. The squad we have needs to come under scrutiny though. Many of them seem to be going through the motions. The majority are probably already looking beyond Conte, but you’d think a little self-respect would fire them up. But Conte needs to look at himself too as he finds it difficult to change formation if the game dictates.

The thing I found most difficult to comprehend against United was his decision to replace Hazard yet keep Morata on the pitch. Hazard was being closely marked but he is the type of player (the only player we have) that could produce a moment to turn the game.

Morata, one attempt apart, was frustrating as hell, yet was given the full 90 minutes.

When he was injured, the majority of fans bemoaned the lack of a striker but now he’s back, most are wondering whether he actually improves us. He has an unreliable relationship with gravity and an even more unreliable time in front of goal. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he is a diver but he is incredibly weak when challenged — he needs to man up if he is going to have any sort of career in the Premier League. Or is talk of him missing the sun, sangria, and La Liga more than just rumour?

Losing away at United isn’t what has left us in a Europa League place, rather horrendous showings against the likes of Watford, Bournemouth, and Crystal Palace that have cost us. And dropping into the poor man’s European Cup could cost us more than our pride. Despite his making the right noises whenever he is asked about his future, Hazard has never made a secret that he wants to win the Champions League. Yo-yo seasons won’t deliver that. When Madrid come knocking, I’m not sure there is much that we will be able to do to keep him.

Even more depressing, I can see Chelsea using the fee to buy another clutch of average players — as has been the strategy for a while. We could be heading for lean times, especially if you believe, as I do, that last season was a fluke. We have been building our castles on sand and the tide is beginning to come in.

And what about the manager? This week we have been linked with Van Gaal — a failure at United and a man who admits to needing three years to deliver any kind of success. He would maybe get three months — if he’s lucky. Who else would want to come to the circus that is Chelsea FC?

Many want Diego Simeone. Why would one of Europe’s highly regarded managers come to us? Money? There are plenty of clubs now who could match and surpass what we’re willing to pay. We’d be lucky to be in his top five options.

We are on a precipice — almost as we were a couple of years ago. Then, Conte performed a miracle and pulled us back from the edge, but we have put ourselves right back in harm’s way.

What happens between now and the start of next season could have a huge impact on the next 10 years. Fall out of that elite top four and we could find ourselves in the wilderness for a long time. We could become also-rans. Just look at Arsenal. Happy to challenge for a domestic cup and a run in the Europa. Is that where our future lies?

Abramovich needs to reevaluate what he wants for his club and maybe admit that the model we have been operating is outdated and could prove ultimately destructive. He needs input from experienced football people not the collective lawyers and corporate heads we have at the moment. The ball is in your court, Roman.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox