Spineless Chelsea Must Accept That They Are No Longer a European Powerhouse

?More impressionable Chelsea supporters would have been genuinely optimistic that the Blues stood a chance of progression against Bayern Munich before roughly 9.05pm on Tuesday night, but the lack of a spine of key players contributed to their European downfall.

The media narrative in the buildup to the last 16 first leg at Stamford Bridge would lead you to believe that Chelsea were somewhere near the level of their Bavarian guests – that while the home side were underdogs it could be a tight affair, a rematch of the 2012 Champions League final. 

Sky’s Charlie Nicholas ?declared before the match: “Bayern do struggle at the back and they are being questioned in the Bundesliga. They are not as good as they have been in the past; I think they’ve regressed since Jupp Heynckes.” Meanwhile, ?Goal suggested Frank Lampard’s men would be ‘on a high’ after beating an extremely average Tottenham side on Saturday, writing that Chelsea would be looking to ‘build on that result’.

Frank Lampard

Lampard was one of the few to acknowledge ?Chelsea’s obvious underdog status before the match, admitting it was likely that his side would have to suffer for long periods over the 180+ minutes against the Bundesliga side.

Well…I guess he was right…although probably more right than he would have liked. Chelsea were underdogs to a ravenous beast that eventually tore them to shreds. Riding their luck, the Blues’ glaring deficiencies remained cached until Bayern’s gentle prodding of the home side swiftly became rolling punches after half time. 

Sliced open thrice without reply by the pace, vision and finishing ability of Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, and Alphonso Davies, Chelsea are unequivocally out of the ?Champions League with barely a whimper.

Serge Gnabry

But should we be surprised given recent form? In short – no, definitely not. The game played out pretty much exactly as you would have expected on paper; Bayern came into the match unbeaten since early December and top of the ?Bundesliga, while the hosts had lost seven of their last 15 ?Premier League games and are literally clinging on to fourth place in the Premier League, a whopping 35 points adrift of champions-elect Liverpool.

Meanwhile, Chelsea scraped through in second in a Champions League group containing Valencia, Ajax and Lille, while the juggernaut Bayern secured six wins out of six in their pool. It’s fair to say, Der FCB are at least three goals better than Chelsea at present.

Then we must consider Chelsea’s European stature. They infamously defeated ?Bayern in their own back yard in their penultimate competitive meeting (barring the UEFA Super Cup). But, lads, that was eight (yes EIGHT) long years ago now. Despite domestic and Europa League success in the years since, their form in the Champions League has spiralled. 

The west Londoners haven’t won a Champions League knockout match since beating Paris Saint-Germain in 2014 – a damning statistic that speaks volumes of the Blues’ downward trajectory since regularly reaching the semi-finals of the competition in the noughties and early 2010s.

Cesar Azpilicueta,Lucas Moura,Frank Lampard

How they miss the core of immovable stalwarts that littered the lineup throughout that period; Petr Cech, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba. The closest thing Stamford Bridge has seen since was the double title-winning spine of Petr Cech/Thibaut Courtois, Gary Cahill, N’Golo Kanté, Cesc Fabregas, ?Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, although they were members of sides that faltered in Europe.  

A central group of ever-reliable players was sorely missed on Tuesday night. While the naivety of Frank Lampard’s youthful side and lack of that core was there for all to see, it was a performance characterised by inexplicable lapses in judgement from their more experienced heads.

Clement Turpin

With 49 minutes on the clock at the score still at 0-0, Jorginho picked up a needless yellow card for his petulance towards the referee and ruled himself out of the second leg. You wouldn’t catch the man in the dugout doing that.

Then, with his side already two goals down on home soil, Andreas Christensen sold himself to the pace of Davies with a ridiculous lunge, allowing the electric Canadian to streak clear and provide a simple assist for Robert Lewandowski. 

Marcos Alonso’s red card for a blatant swipe at the Pole compounded Chelsea’s misery and once again reflected a lack of level-headedness and leadership from the club’s most experienced players.


Elsewhere, Ross Barkley demonstrated that he perhaps does not have the footballing brain for the elite level, while Olivier Giroud’s hold-up play was nowhere near the standard required given the opposition.

In truth, Chelsea are still in the midst of a period of transition that began after the 2017 title win and the departure of Diego Costa. It is a phase that has been hampered by an enforced embargo on transfer activity last summer and ?a disappointing lack of transfer activity in January. 

The early signing of Hakim Ziyech is a step in the right direction, but the Blues have a hell of a way to go to being restored back to Europe’s top table and standing any chance of challenging for the Champions League once again.

Frank Lampard

Lampard was, well, frank in his own assessment, saying as much post-match, via ?Sky: “There’s a lot to their team we have to respect. Today was a clear show there’s a lot of work to be done. I’ve felt that all the way through since taking the job.

“We have to take it on the chin and look at yourself and no one else, and the levels we need to attain at this club, which this club has attained in the past and we have to work to get back there.”

For more from Krishan Davis, follow him on Twitter!


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