Chelsea have struggled for form in pre-season this summer, prompting worries from many fans as the new campaign approaches.
Thomas Tuchel’s Blues now have less than two weeks to get themselves into shape for 2022/23, and admittedly look far from their best at present.
Chelsea’s three-game US pre-season tour has raised a lot of questions about the side’s fitness and preparation, with weak points seemingly appearing in several positions.
Their first match – a 2-1 win over Mexico’s Club America in Las Vegas – was a far-from-convincing victory as Mason Mount’s quality strike saved Reece James’ blushes after an embarrassing own-goal.
The second game was a 1-1 draw with MLS outfit Charlotte FC, which ended in penalty shootout defeat as Conor Gallagher fluffed a Panenka attempt.
And the third match – the most recent at the time of writing – came in the form of a 4-0 thrashing by Arsenal in Orlando.
The Blues boss questioned the ‘commitment, physically and mentally’ of his players and admitted they were ‘simply not good enough’.
But is this all something of an overreaction?
The serious business of 2022/23 is not yet underway and, as past examples show, pre-season is not always the best indication of a team’s true form.
Back in 2010, Chelsea were crowned Premier League and FA Cup double-winners at the end of their fantastic first season under Carlo Ancelotti.
When they returned to the pitch for pre-season a couple of months later though, it was as though the entire squad had been replaced by lacklustre body doubles.
The Blues began with a narrow 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, but then lost four straight matches before the start of the season.
There were worries among the Blues support as they were beaten 3-1 by Ajax, 2-1 by Eintracht Frankfurt and 2-1 by Hamburg – with a young Heung-Min Son getting on the scoresheet not long after his 18th birthday.
In the curtain-raising Community Shield, the reigning champions then lost 3-1 to Manchester United at Wembley, making it four straight pre-season losses.
However, when it mattered, Ancelotti’s Chelsea came out firing and recorded back-to-back 6-0 wins to start the Premier League season.
Didier Drogba bagged a hat-trick in the home thumping of West Brom, while Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka got braces at Wigan.
The Blues looked utterly unstoppable as they won their first five matches before Manchester City proved otherwise with a narrow 1-0 victory.
Ultimately, the season ended trophyless for Chelsea as United were too strong and regained the title, but a second-placed finished proved pre-season was no indication of what was to come.
The Blues also had a poor pre-season two years later in 2012.
Coming off the back of their Champions League and FA Cup triumphs, Roberto Di Matteo’s men beat Seattle Sounders 4-2, but then drew 1-1 with PSG and lost four in a row once again.
A 3-2 defeat to the MLS All-Stars, a 1-0 loss to Milan and a 3-1 beating by Brighton did not set Chelsea up well for the Community Shield, which Manchester City won 3-2.
However, once more the Blues were on fine form for the start of the season and went unbeaten with seven wins and one draw after eight games.
Only then did they begin the woeful run which saw Di Matteo sacked, and ultimately salvaged the season with a Europa League victory under Rafa Benitez.
Again though, a poor pre-season did not lead in to a poor Premier League opening.
Just once in recent years has a poor pre-season proved to be a genuine sign of what was to come for Chelsea.
In 2015, the Jose Mourinho’s return was proved triumphant as he brought the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge in dominant fashion.
However, he was left far from happy at the lack of signings to strengthen further and pre-season saw the Blues winless (excluding penalty shootouts) as they were beaten 4-2 by New York Red Bulls, drew 1-1 with PSG, drew 2-2 with Barcelona, then suffered a 1-0 defeat to Fiorentina.
Mourinho’s men lost the Community Shield 1-0 to Arsenal as well and, this time, it did spill over into the serious business.
Chelsea’s 2015/16 Premier League campaign was an absolute farce and started so poorly that they were lingering close to the relegation zone at times.
Mourinho was sacked in December with the side sat 16th and Guus Hiddink’s return only saw the Blues rise to 10th by the end of the campaign.
Back to the present, Chelsea clearly do have issues to address.
Defensive replacement signings need to be wrapped up swiftly and Tuchel’s forward options could do with improvement also.
The Blues have Udinese still to come in their final pre-season game before kicking off at Everton on August 6.
Ultimately, only when Chelsea step out at Goodison Park will we really know how they will look in the new season.
As 2010 and 2012 showed, pre-season is far from reliable when it comes to predicting how the team will play in their PL opener.
However, in balance, 2015 may serve as a warning that work does need to be done off the pitch in order to achieve the correct results on it.
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