Things haven’t gone as planned for Antonio Conte at Chelsea so far.
It may be a tad bit unfair to make too many strong judgments with just 6 games played in the Premier League season, but there are a few cracks appearing in the team that needs to be fixed, and quickly.
The Blues are on a winless streak of three games, having lost to Arsenal and Liverpool in the last couple of weeks.
Conte made it clear at the end of the Arsenal defeat that he didn’t want to point fingers at particular individuals, and that the whole team would have to shoulder the blame for the poor performance.
There are, however, some players who seem to have overstayed their welcome in the starting XI, and changes are in order.
The game away at Hull City on Saturday is a very important fixture for Chelsea.
The Blues are currently in 8th place and must get back to winning ways soon to avoid a repeat of last season’s horror show when they finished 10th.
Here are three under-performing players Conte must be willing to drop against the Tigers, and the ones who should be replacing them.
The basis for this analysis is the starting team fielded in Chelsea’s last game, against Arsenal.
1) Branislav Ivanovic (replaced by Marcos Alonso)
There hasn’t been too much right that Ivanovic has done in the last year and a half and it is incredible that he has still kept his place.
His pace, positioning, and ability on the ball have all faded almost completely, and wingers don’t find it too difficult to run rings around him.
While Marcos Alonso may not be the most world-class replacement around, he will certainly be an upgrade.
The most important implication of that change will be Cesar Azpilicueta, the best defender in the team at the moment, switching over to his preferred right-back position, with Alonso playing on the left.
2) Nemanja Matic (replaced by Nathaniel Chalobah or Oscar)
Another Serbian who should be dropped is Nemanja Matic.
While the midfielder hasn’t had an altogether terrible start to the campaign, he is simply not the man to play in an advanced role in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
He looks completely out-of-sorts in the final third, and cannot play those incisive passes that Cesc Fabregas can.
Playing youth product Nathaniel Chalobah would add a great balance to the side.
Chelsea could operate in a 4-3-3 – esque system, with N’Golo Kante sitting in front of the defence, Chalobah playing box-to-box and Fabregas given a slightly advanced attacking role.
But with the track record at Stamford Bridge, it would be unlikely to see a youngster promoted so quickly and dramatically.
Oscar could also play that role well, as he did in the first half of the 2014/15 campaign. The Brazilian though, simply has got to start contributing more goals and assists.
3) Willian (replaced by Victor Moses)
This may be contentious argument, seeing that Willian was Chelsea’s Player of the Year last season. But simply put, the winger’s decision-making in the final third of the pitch is simply not good enough.
He does well to get a promising position on the byline, but fluffs his lines while trying to play the killer pass or going for goal.
Victor Moses was fantastic in pre-season, and has been very effective in the few minutes he has been afforded in the league.
In the cup competitions, where he has played a lot more, he has often been the Blues’ most creative outlet out wide.
He is a classical winger, who hugs the touchline and consistently delivers good balls into the box. If Conte is looking to switch to 3-5-2 system, having wide men like Moses will be imperative.