In a summer transfer window that saw Chelsea spend more than £200m on new levels of star power, it seems a bit silly to think that they didn’t use up the change on some blue confetti for the inevitable Premier League-winning bus parade in May 2021.
Chelsea welcomed Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, while also snapping up Thiago Silva on a free and spending a bit more on Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy. In the eyes of the fans, windows don’t come more exciting and successful than that, especially considering Manchester United were sieving through the free agents on deadline day to salvage theirs.
Looking at Chelsea’s summer transfer window compared to United’s, it’s quite clear to see that one of these sides was bound to be top of the league at the halfway point while the other is facing an uphill battle to find a way into the top four.
Believe it or not, though, spending tons of cash doesn’t translate to instant success like it does in FIFA’s Career Mode. It’s Frank Lampard’s side who are languishing in seventh after 18 games and, while nothing is decided in January, Chelsea are firmly out of a title race they absolutely should be in, given the squad they possess.
The season started strongly as the Blues lost just once in their opening 11 league games, winning six and drawing four. They also breezed through their Champions League group and await a two-legged date with Atletico Madrid in February’s round of 16. All sounded rosy, until a 1-0 defeat away to Everton uncovered some concerning truths.
Since losing to the Toffees on 12 December, Chelsea have capitulated and seemingly lost all belief. They’ve managed just two league wins since and even lost to Arsenal on Boxing Day – the same Arsenal we were all laughing at for being in a relegation battle before the new year.
It’s been a difficult month or so that’s served as a harsh reality check to fans and players alike. Lampard simply isn’t getting the best out of his squad at the moment; a squad that is clearly still gelling together. No matter how much money you spend on players, you can’t buy chemistry (despite what FUT tells you).
Havertz has struggled to hit the ground running despite the hype and record transfer fee he arrived for, and has only actually managed to play a full 90 minutes in three Premier League games so far – although he can perhaps be excused after a nasty bout of coronavirus. Meanwhile, Werner hasn’t scored in the league since November and went on a 12-game goalless streak before breaking the duck against Morecambe in the FA Cup.
New signings are still adapting to new surroundings, while Lampard is still trying to figure out how exactly he can fit them into the same XI in a way that gets them all firing together. A trip to the King Power stadium to face Leicester, who can go top with victory over Chelsea, won’t make it any easier to find that formula, either.
The Foxes spent a modest £57m or so last summer, but are the perfect example of a club being run properly. Brendan Rodgers has found the balance in his squad between hard work and talent and continues to extract the maximum out of a talented group. Despite their inconsistency at times, Leicester pick up points in key moments and find themselves in the top four as a result.
For both sides, the halfway point clash not only serves as a good time for reflection, but also the chance to define their season going forward. A win for Leicester would be another huge three points over fellow top four rivals and keep Chelsea stuck between a cluster of surprise challengers. For the Blues, though, it’s the perfect opportunity to spell an end to underperformance and subsequent panic.
A good performance against a Leicester side who love to turn up in big games this season will do wonders for Lampard and his players, who need an extra injection of belief. While the season has been underwhelming for fans, it’s by no means over and one good result is enough to shift the tide entirely.
Be it a textbook, free flowing performance that gets the best out of their attacking unit or a gutsy, resilient 90 minutes that sees them grind out a result, a win is crucial for Chelsea. Victory can be the catalyst for a progressive second half of the season.