Chelsea dropped points for the fourth time in as many matches in the English Premier League this year—going down 2-1 away to West Bromwich Albion.
The Baggies put an early lead on the board thanks to a goal from Shane Long, and whilst the Blues would level through Eden Hazard just before halftime, Steve Clarke's men would find the game-winning goal through Peter Odemwingie in the second half and take another three points off the London club.
Granted, Chelsea were missing some key players and squandered some key opportunities to find the back of the net, but for the most part, they were simply beaten by a stronger and more disciplined side on the night.
They were unable to stop the Baggies effectively using the width of the pitch, and their midfield, which has dominated teams through the middle all year, could not find traction against a solid West Brom defense that was already missing their starting goalkeeper in Ben Foster.
So what should the Blues make of the loss? Is it just to be viewed as a minor slip-up—an away loss that was bound to happen some time soon—or is there evidence of a bigger problem at work here in the defending European champions?
Looking at the big picture, you'd have to suggest that there is some merit to the latter of those two statements. After all, Chelsea now haven't won a Premier League match in over a month of competition and have slipped from being the runaway league leaders to a full win behind Manchester City and Manchester United in the title race this year.
In the past month, they've seen leads against Swansea City and Liverpool result in nothing but draws and have conceded early goals against Manchester United and West Brom—goals that would ultimately see them walk away with disappointing losses.
Their tough defense—which was at one point the best in the Premier League—has conceded nine goals in their past five matches, as opposed to the four that they had conceded in the seven games prior to that. No clean sheet has been recorded by the Blues since the 22nd of September, when they played Stoke City, who have been the worst attacking team in the league this year.
The numbers—and the results that those numbers have produced—don't make for inspiring reading if you're a Chelsea fan. They point to the reality that, for whatever reasons, the Blues' recent form cannot be just considered a minor blip or slip-up.
They show that the Blues are experiencing some problems at the moment.
And those problems are seemingly bigger than any numbers or statistics decline; there are problems with the culture and cohesion of the West London club.
Roberto Di Matteo's men have had a tumultuous month in terms of their off-field news, with a number of key allegations, problems and decisions at hand.
Perhaps the most serious of these were the racism claims brought forward by the Blues on referee Mark Clattenburg following their controversial 3-2 loss to Manchester United in October.
The allegations say that Clattenburg used racist language toward John Obi Mikel and inappropriate language toward Juan Mata—leading the club to lodge a formal complaint with the Football Association regarding Clattenburg's status as a Premier League official (per The Telegraph).
And whilst I'm not going to get into the full details of who said what, who was right, who was wrong and what should now take place (you can read more thoughts on that here); what I will say is that the allegations have come at a very interesting time for the club.
Their claims come at the beginning of their four-game winless streak, and one must wonder what impact the comments have on the team and the players within it—particularly as the case begins to unravel and the claims seem to become more spurious by the day as a result.
However, the racism saga is not the only thing to embroil the club lately.
They've suffered some key injuries to key players in that time also—the most notable of which being England international John Terry, who is out for at least another three weeks with knee injury (according to The Daily Mail).
The defender had only just returned from a four-game domestic ban due to racist language used against Anton Ferdinand last season, and his absence now forces Di Matteo to use Gary Cahill and David Luiz in central defense—a partnership that doesn't provide the same stability or platform that the Blues have become accustomed to this year.
Should they fail to win, the Blues could become the first defending champions to be eliminated from the group stages of the competition—a stigma that they simply do not need hanging around their necks for the remainder of the Premier League season.
And to top it all off, the transfer rumors of a bid for Radamel Falcao continue to flood in, with Di Matteo himself conceding during the week that the Atletico Madrid striker would make a fantastic addition for any club in the world—including Chelsea (per The Daily Mirror).
The Blues are believed to be the favorites to sign Falcao over the upcoming January winter transfer window given the fact that their marquee striker, Fernando Torres, hasn't found the back of the net in the Premier League since their 4-1 win over Norwich five weeks ago.
Torres has scored just four of the Blues' 24 goals this year—leaving many to ponder again whether he is the best attacking option for the club—and considering that Chelsea will be without Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel because of the African Cup of Nations over January, a move for Falcao could well make sense for the West London club.
Regardless of whether Falcao does or doesn't come to the club, you wonder what damage the rumors and speculation is doing for the confidence of Torres, who struggled once more against the Baggies' defense this weekend.
The former Liverpool striker knows he isn't play well and knows he needs to score goals, but when you have teammates coming out and implying that the Spanish international doesn't have what it takes to win the title this year, his confidence and self-belief is no doubt taking a significant hit.
That's simply not the cohesion and culture you want at any club—least of which being the defending European champions and Premier League title contenders.
Are Chelsea in a slump?
It is little wonder that Chelsea are starting to feel the pressure and are letting it get to them, with The Daily Mail reporting that several players from the club were involved in a passionate bust-up about whether or not their performance against West Brom was up to scratch.
Simply put, the Blues are under a great deal of pressure, and their recent losses testify to the larger problems on hand that the club is facing.
Some would argue that it is pressure that they've put on themselves, but nevertheless, the pressure is there and is starting to affect the West London club.
Di Matteo has conceded that his side are under the pump of late (per The Telegraph) and highlighted the need for confidence at both an individual and club level:
Absolutely—it is a challenging time when you don't win games and you need to instill confidence in your players and to the team that is going to be a tough job.
Of course every game is massive and important, the club that we are we are looking to be always competing at the top and every defeat is a problem for us. But certainly Tuesday is going to be a massive game in the Champions League for us.
It would be easy to look at Chelsea's latest 2-1 loss to West Bromwich Albion and hide behind a number of excuses—the Baggies were too good, it was just an off night, or that the club has been through a lot—but the reality is that this is a side crumbling under the weight of expectation.
Be that self-imposed or added on externally, Chelsea are not in the right frame of mind at the moment to challenge in either the English or European competitions, and the results are simply a reflection of the bigger issues currently existent at Stamford Bridge.
Just how they change that still remains to be seen.
A result this Tuesday wouldn't be a bad place to start.
What do you make of Chelsea's latest performances?
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