The recent slumps of Liverpool and Chelsea might be a case of a certain No.8 missing this season

 

For more than just a few teams in top flight football across Europe, this winter has been one to forget. Previous performances by clubs that were full of confidence and potential seem to have been completely disregarded as bookies across the world collective scratch their heads with respect to the question of whom will win The Premiership this year. There are however a few very realistic assumptions that one can make about the fall from grace for Chelsea and Liverpool thus far.

Chelsea

As an AC Milan man myself, I can attest to the quality of Ancelloti’s coaching. He is most definitely not the problem, maintaining form and injuries however seem to be the bane of Chelsea’s existence. Lets not forget that it was mere months ago that the Chelsea manager himself could not explain the rationale for his teams 6-0 thumpings of sides at home and on the road. He even referred to it as “Play Station Football” a fitting reference to what had been an unbelievable run at the beginning of the season. It seemed my prediction that Manchester City would swoop in and take the title this year from aging Premiership sides was going to have to be torn up and thrown away given Chelsea’s start of the season performance. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for Chelsea fans, lady luck had some surprises in store for them on the injury front.

Never would the Blues regret sending Michael Ballack packing more than when Frank Lampard missed the run up into the winter of this season. Without him in the midfield, Chelsea went from its overconfident self to a largely disorganised mess. Something that Chelsea fans hadn’t experienced the sight of until well before the ‘Special One’s’ era.

If that wasn’t bad enough, John Terry having to sit it out for a few weeks only served to remind fans as to how large a gap Terry will leave behind after he retires eventually with Ivanovich looking particularly pathetic in his attempts to fill the role even if it was temporary affair. They need not look further than across the city to North London to realise how tough it is to replace a key central defenders with Arsenal struggling to this day to find an equivalent replacement to Toure and Gallas though to their credit they seem to be making some progress.

If I had to pick between the two, I’d still say that the absence of Lampard left Chelsea worse off this season and is probably largely responsible for their plight. With a lack of creative genius in the centre of the pitch they exposed themselves as one dimensional. Drogba looked less effective than ever, Anelka even more pathetic in terms of creativity than his usual uninteresting self. Hopefully though Frank Lampards return wouldn’t have come late enough to prevent their customary march to the top of the table. Something that I wish Chelsea fans the best of luck with.

The only foreseeable problem for Chelsea happens to be with its former saviour and owner Abrahmovich, who has reported lost hundreds of millions during his ownership of the club in yet another example of irresponsible management and spending. With the World Cup in Russia coming up in a few years and Putin encouraging Russian entrepreneurs to invest at home instead of abroad, Chelsea fans might be in for some bad news or at the very least less money in the transfer kitty than they are used to. There can be no doubt that Abrahmovich seems to have lost interest in what was once his most prized asset and that seems to have had a trickle down effect on the morale of the team.

Liverpool

Benitez’s successor has had a lot on his plate to deal with to be fair. A change of ownership at the club, trouble motivating Fernando Torres and having to deal with a back room staff that hasn’t really been able to cut the mustard. Not that I would make any excuses for ‘Big Roy’ but the truth is moving to a club and achieving instant success isn’t easy and not everyone is as fortunate as Carlo Ancelloti and Jose Mourhinio in their being able to transform a club into a league winning side in the first year on the job. Were every manager that good, everyone would end the season tied first!

Injury woes seem to have crippled Liverpool as well this year along with the departure of Xabi Alonoso which is being felt more and more as the days go by in what looks like a midfield in disarray. That Aquilani didn’t get a fair chance to perform was my biggest regret, as having seen him play nearly his whole career in the Serie A it was clear to me that he would be able to add some serious flair to the Liverpool midfield. Steven Gerrard out for a couple of weeks didn’t help the teams confidence either and with things at an all time low at Anfield I would be surprised if Big Roy manages to keep his job. To be perfectly honest though, I feel he definitely deserves another year having used this one to settle down as his performances against top flight sides have been impressive. What Liverpool lacks is consistency, something that can only be settled over time and that requires one thing that Liverpool fans are in short supply of these days. Patience.

Finishing in the top 5 would be a dream, but one that few fans should be banking on. Relegation being nearly impossible for a team of their calibre no matter how poorly they have performed as of late, brings Liverpool fans to the inevitable conclusion of having to write off this season and hope they can pick up the pieces for the next one without losing Fernando Torres to the La Liga. Something that will be weighing heavily on the minds of Anfields faithful as we get closer to the conclusion of this season.

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