Thiago Silva paused with the ball on the midway line. Alongside him, his teammates have been pointing and shouting at him to do one thing with it. Up within the stands, the varied strands of encouraging recommendation being proffered by Chelsea followers had basically congealed right into a single unintelligible noise – one thing like “faacckkinggettrrrrid”, if we have been going to attempt to transcribe it. And so it was that within the last minute of damage time, with Chelsea rousing themselves seeking a late equaliser, their chosen tactic was to pump a excessive ball as much as the 5ft 7in Raheem Sterling.
Because it occurred, Sterling was offside, and shortly after that Michael Oliver introduced proceedings to a merciful shut. And strictly talking Chelsea misplaced this sport not within the fumblings of stoppage time however within the inept and inchoate hour and a half that preceded it. Nonetheless, as an emblem of their deficiencies and inefficiencies right here, it was nearly as good as any. The excellent news is that Chelsea seem like a staff with loads of concepts. The issue is that no person appears to be sharing their concepts with anybody else.
The result’s akin to a kind of Christmas parlour video games the place one individual begins a drawing, folds the paper over after which passes it to another person, who provides a bit and passes it on, and on the finish everybody laughs and has a sherry. A spirited assault would develop, numerous moist males would run in numerous instructions, and as soon as the transfer unfolded everybody would look as much as uncover that Chelsea had someway ended up with 4 left-wingers, no person within the centre, Raheem Sterling on his bottom and the ball hurtling again in the direction of their very own objective at an alarming velocity.
Throw within the menacing undercurrent of a London derby, the driving rain and a midday kick-off, and maybe it’s no shock that Chelsea left the sphere wanting not simply drenched however totally perplexed. Even the singing betrayed a scarcity of cohesion: whereas the Matthew Harding Stand started the sport with their customary “champions of Europe, you’ll by no means sing that”, the East Stand plumped inexplicably for the variant: “the place’s your European Cup?” A multitude.
For now Graham Potter remains to be the answer quite than the issue right here: a programs coach introduced in to handle a squad of impulse purchases, the long-term strategist thrown into the most important job of his life mid-season.
But when there was a weak point in these early weeks it has been the failure to venture a way of management, the sense that amid the rolling chaos there may be no less than a transparent and identifiable course of journey.
Formations shift from sport to sport, generally from half to half. The press is livid at occasions and non-existent at others. Sterling is a wing-back one sport, a winger the subsequent and a form of roaming nine-and-three-quarters the one after that. Everybody is aware of that he’s studying on the job. However there are occasions whenever you want he would make it rather less apparent.
However then Potter is combating deep-seated, systemic points right here. Maybe that is what occurs whenever you construct your complete tradition of a soccer membership across the concept of everlasting disruption. The place success is merely a case of throwing the very best guys collectively and hoping all of it clicks for a season (by no means two). Simply take into account what number of completely different roles and ways – say – Ruben Loftus-Cheek has needed to be taught over time below his seven completely different managers. Repeatedly we noticed Sterling or Kai Havertz or Armando Broja getting the ball and easily stopping to have a little bit of a assume. Dangle on, I do know this one. It was within the playbook … Mason comes brief and Auba makes the run into the left channel and … oh cripes, there’s Granit Xhaka.
In a approach, it is a good signal. It exhibits that there’s no less than a component of studying and rewiring going down right here, that the elements are slowly within the technique of being moulded right into a practical entire. And there have been fleeting glimpses of the way it would possibly finally all work: the fast kicks from Edouard Mendy to Sterling, the little darts into the channel from Havertz.
However proper now Arsenal are just too massive and complicated an issue for this Chelsea to unravel. And till Potter’s concepts start to take root they may proceed to look weak: too straightforward to go via, too straightforward to trouble off the ball. Manchester United, Brighton, Dinamo Zagreb and now Arsenal have all found that in latest weeks.
The attention-grabbing half will likely be to see whether or not the fitting classes are taken right here. Simply assume how lengthy it took Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal to look remotely competent, not to mention able to difficult Manchester Metropolis for the title.
This was Mikel Arteta’s a hundred and fiftieth sport in all competitions; the final man to outlive that lengthy at Chelsea was 14 managers in the past. Potter is aware of that what he wants above all is a bit of time, a bit of persistence, a bit of religion, a bit of respiratory house. He should certainly additionally know that he’ll get none of those.