History has a tendency to repeat itself and in Chelsea’s case, it’s not looking good.
A year ago next week, the Blues sacked club legend Frank Lampard as manager after they found themselves 11 points adrift of Manchester City in the title race and were in freefall.
Following Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Brighton at the Amex, Chelsea found themselves 12 points adrift in the title race – again, chasing City’s coat-tails.
Now, for the record, Thomas Tuchel is nowhere close to being sacked. On the contray, he has so much credit in the bank at Stamford Bridge after winning the Champions League in his first six months that it would be utterly unthinkable to let him go now.
Chelsea are in danger of slipping into a top-four battle after falling out of the title race
So with that being said, there is no threat of history repeating itself there. But that’s not to say it’s all rosy at Stamford Bridge – far from it.
Tuesday’s result at the Amex has led to serious questions being asked of the European champions, who now face the prospect of being dragged into a battle for top four. Tottenham’s last-gasp victory against Leicester only added to the sense that they are being forced more and more to look over their shoulders.
But what is going on with the Blues and what is causing this major drop in form?
Sportsmail takes a closer look at how things are starting to unravel for Tuchel and his squad.
Chelsea are now 12 points adrift of Manchester City and have played a game more than them
Tempers starting to flare
When Chelsea were one goal to the good as the half-time whistle blew, you would expect Tuchel’s men to be at least content with taking the lead and only 45 minutes left to play.
That wasn’t the case on the south coast when television cameras picked up a heated discussion between Hakim Ziyech and Romelu Lukaku as they headed for the tunnel.
Ziyech, who broke the deadlock with a superb finish from outside the box, barely mustered a smile as his team-mates flocked to celebrate with him.
Ziyech (left) and Lukaku (right) were involved in a heated discussion at the Amex Stadium
Tempers are starting to flare amid the Chelsea ranks which could pose a problem for Tuchel
His celebration, or lack of, raised eyebrows among the Blues faithful with many questioning whether there was unrest among the Chelsea ranks.
This lack of harmony in the squad is starting to rear its ugly head and comes just weeks after Lukaku’s ill-timed interview with Italian television, leaving Tuchel to address the issue publicly.
However, Ziyech and Lukaku’s heated discussion could be that cracks are beginning to appear in what is turning out to be a crucial spell for the Blues.
A lack of harmony among the Chelsea ranks could spell danger in what is a torrid run of form
Tuchel played down Ziyech and Lukaku’s spat and insisted that it was no cause of concern for him, with the German saying the chat was ‘normal’ – saying was satisfied if his players weren’t happy with how they were playing.
However, Tuchel will need to be careful and try to keep a lid on things in a bid to stop the rot and prevent their campaign from completely falling apart.
Tuchel looking for excuses
While the problems are beginning to mount at Chelsea, it appears so are the excuses as well.
Following their most recent draw with the Seagulls, Tuchel once again bemoaned his club’s punishing schedule and now plans to give his players two days off ahead of Sunday’s home game against Tottenham.
Asked to explain the recent poor league form, the German replied: ‘I answered this question a hundred times, if you look at our situation of long-term injuries, of key players injured, and of Covid and you look at our schedule you will have the answer.
Tuchel has been looking for excuses during their poor run that has seen their title hopes fade
Tuchel claims his team are physically and mentally tired amid a poor run of league form
‘We are mentally tired and physically tired, you can see it in our performance, it’s as easy as that. We need to recharge the batteries, we need to reconnect.
‘This is my feeling, that’s why I give the players two days off and then we will use Friday and Saturday to prepare for Sunday.’
Tuchel – who guided his side to the Carabao Cup final this month with a two-legged semi-final victory over Spurs – insisted the performance and result at the Amex Stadium was not down to a lack of ambition.
‘It’s very, very tough to play at Brighton and they played it like a cup game, the noise at the whistle at the end was like we lost the game and this can very easily give you the impression that we lost but we didn’t,’ he said.
Tuchel believes his squad need a break, given the hectic schedule that lays in front of them
‘Other teams will struggle to get points here and it’s even tough if you’re not tired. There are some obstacles to overcome here and I simply refuse to be angry because it’s not about the ambition.
‘We were a bit lucky to be 1-0 ahead and you can take advantage of it and score a second one but we struggled to show the quality. We demand a lot from us but it’s not the time to be too harsh.’
The German may be looking to take the heat off his players after yet another disappointing result but it could spell trouble if Tuchel doesn’t get the right reaction from his players.
Dropping points leaves Chelsea adrift
Chelsea 1-1 draw with Brighton was incredibly their eighth of the season – and the fifth in seven games.
During that run, Tuchel’s men managed just one win in the Premier League, where they picked up all three points against Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Their only defeat came against Manchester City last weekend – a 1-0 defeat away from home – and it can be argued that at least their picking up points.
Chelsea have dropped 13 points since mid-December and are now checking their shoulder
But whether you’re a glass half full or half empty type of person, the matter of fact is that Tuchel’s men have dropped 13 points since mid-December and has seen their title hopes fade to dust.
With Manchester City running away with in the race for the title, and not looking like slowing down, Chelsea now need to be near-perfect for the rest of the campaign and hope City slip up if they are to have any hope of getting back in it.
But when looking at the here and now, they must look behind and see a couple of familiar faces hunting them down.
Fixture chaos at the Bridge
CHELSEA’S POTENTIAL SCHEDULE
February 5 – Plymouth Argyle (FA Cup)
February 9 – FIFA Club World Cup semi-final
February 12 – FIFA Club World Cup final (or third-place play-off)
February 15/16 – Potential Premier League catch-up game
February 19 – Crystal Palace (A – PL)
February 22 – Lille (H – CL)
February 27 – Liverpool (Carabao Cup final)
March 2/3 – Potential FA Cup R5
March 5 – Burnley (A – PL)
March 8/9 – Potential Premier League catch-up game
March 12 – Newcastle (H – PL)
March 16 – Lille (A – CL)
March 19 – Norwich (A – PL) OR FA Cup quarter-final
With Covid still wreaking havoc in the division, with Premier League forced to postpone multiple games across the winter period, Tuchel and Co will be facing what could be a second festive-style period given the amount of games they will have to play.
And with the Club World Cup on the horizon, Chelsea could be left to play a staggering thirteen games across a six-week period as a result of scheduling.
February and March are set to be relentless for the Blues, with a Carabao Cup final, FA Cup and Champions League campaign all to be taken into consideration too.
Chelsea were due to host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, February 12. However, their involvement in the Club World Cup saw the game get postponed.
Therefore, Chelsea will have to carve out some time later in February or March to play the rearranged fixture. This could take place on either February 15/16 or March 8/9.
Additionally, Chelsea may have to rearrange their fixture with Leicester on February 27 after they reached the Carabao Cup final. Therefore, they will be required to find another suitable date to host the visitors.
On top of that, Chelsea must take part in four Premier League games against Crystal Palace, Burnley, Newcastle and Norwich.
However, the Blues’ fixture against Norwich could cause another complication as Chelsea could be required to play in the FA Cup quarter-final instead.
Tuchel’s side are also set to face Lille twice in the Champions League and take part in the FIFA Club World Cup during this time frame.
And with injuries mounting it seems like a rather impossible job given how they are competing on five different fronts.
Something has got to give and with the their title hopes all but over, a fight to secure Champions League football for next season could be next on the agenda.