The Easter holidays, an important time in the calendar to commemorate the resurrection of Christ was equally important for Chelsea to rekindle their finest form in pursuit of a Champions League qualification place for next season, but despite collecting four points against league minnows Wigan and local rivals Fulham, Chelsea move further down the pecking order for the vital fourth spot.
Winning both games was the minimum requirement to close the gap on Tottenham, but extra emphasis was placed before the visit at Craven Cottage after Tottenham’s defeat at home to Norwich, but a share of the spoils against Fulham leaves Chelsea trailing Newcastle and Tottenham by three points, a tough climb exacerbated by inevitable visits to Arsenal and Liverpool whilst hosting Newcastle, and made the more difficult by fixture congestion caused by the FA cup and Champions League campaign.
Clint Dempsey’s late headed leveller dealt a massive blow to the hopes of securing Champions League football, and bigger doubts are now casted because of the run-in Chelsea have till the end of the season.
The form carried by the players over the weekend deflates the optimism and hope that was stoked before taking to the field against Fulham, despite pulling themselves closer to Tottenham than they were a month ago.
This Easter has seen a jaded and fatigued set of players who were passive in the Wigan game and fortunate to establish the three points even though the Latics continually endeavoured to win the game.
Monday’s clash witnessed a similarly ponderous display, seeing much possession without crafting too many chances. The opening goal, a converted Lampard penalty, arrived after the Cottagers were feeling their way back into the game by swaying the territorial advantage with the use of the flanks. And it was the hosts who gathered the momentum halfway through the second half, capitalising on their impetus to score the equaliser and squander the chances for the blues to match Tottenham’s and Newcastle’s points tally.
A single point gained on Monday may have major retrospect at the end of the season, as it was an ideal opportunity to draw level with fellow league hopefuls and instil a mentality of defiance. The actual outcome is of Chelsea’s continued ineptitude this season to capitalise on leads and penetrate the opposition’s defensive line or weaknesses, whilst withstanding pressure.
Entering the final stages of the season all upcoming fixtures are crucial, with the league critical to the long term strategy of the club, and the daunting challenges in the FA cup ensued by Barcelona will have an impact on how the season plays out.
It is no longer a case of playing complete football and having a dynamic approach. Nor can moments there were against Napoli be wished to be replicated. Chelsea are now in a false league position, self-inflicted and exhausted, with the self-destruct trigger edging closer to the fingertips of certainty.
All that remains is the desire to battle on, bandage the wounds, pull together and continue to make progress, collectively and as individuals. Throw the fantasy football away for this season and grind out wins by any means necessary. It is an uphill battle, but not impossible.