Attention is starting to turn to Chelsea’s under-performing players in the media despite a 2-1 win for the Blues over Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.
Willian’s late free-kick at Stamford Bridge kept Chelsea on course for a place in the last 16 of the Champions League and eased some of the pressure on Jose Mourinho, who afterwards described the support he received from the stands as “amazing”.
The Blues’ performance failed to truly impress, with only Willian scoring an average rating of more than 7/10 in the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and The Times, but the possible importance of the win to the club’s future was not lost on the onlooking media…
Daily Telegraph: There is no hiding place for Chelsea’s underachieving few‘No team who were champions in May can be 15th in November solely on account of the manager’, writes Paul Hayward.
‘With Chelsea in such a state, the searchlight was bound to shift eventually from manager to players. In this 2-1 Champions League victory over Dinamo Kiev, this Chelsea squad knew they had pushed the blame in Mourinho’s direction as far as they dared. There was a noticeable rise in work-rate.
‘Willian is one of the few who have not wavered. But Cesc Fabregas, for example, often seems to be trotting through his tasks. Diego Costa’s machismo is easy to praise and even easier to diagnose as self-absorption that does little for his team.
‘Chelsea’s broader problem is that the intensive pressing and conscientious mass defending that characterises Mourinho’s sides has disappeared of late. Again, not all of that can be pinned on the manager, unless players are so powerful these days that they can ignore the basic tactical plan.
‘This is where Chelsea are: the consequence of anger towards the players is sympathy for Mourinho, who weakens his position by crossing every road to start a war, but was noticeably more humble on this European stage.’
The Independent: Chelsea allow latest Costa controversy to throw them off kilter‘After three home defeats this season, and amid the most dramatic collapse in the recent history of title defences, no win is to be sniffed at,’ writes Jack Pitt-Brooke. ‘During a crisis this bad, anything that slows Chelsea’s descent, or helps them to grab hold of a rung on the bottom of the ladder they are sliding down, is to be embraced.
‘This may even go down as one of the most important wins in the recent history of Chelsea, or even of the career of Jose Mourinho, if it turns out to be a turning point, one that leads to a win against Stoke City on Saturday, and then Norwich City and Maccabi Tel Aviv the far side of the international break.
‘And yet, as a 90-minute football performance, or an indication of where this Chelsea team is, in terms of confidence and form, it was not especially impressive.
‘It was also a night in which the tension and drama of another controversial refereeing decision threatened to dominate the whole affair, and threatened to throw the players off their rhythm.
‘That moment came in the final seconds of the first half. Diego Costa raced in behind, onto a through ball. He held off the challenge of Yevhen Khacheridi, from his left, before Aleksandar Dragovic came in from his right. Dragovic pulled Costa, who thought about it, then went down. Czech referee Pavel Kralovec thought about it, and told Costa to get up.
‘The reality of this season is that almost every time anything has gone against Chelsea in a game, they have wilted.
‘This is why Chelsea’s second half here, in an stadium of almost silent tension, was so instructive. At first, they struggled with the chaos of the non-decision, failing to take control of the game, allowing Dynamo back into it. It was not that Dynamo were playing well, but that Chelsea are currently causing themselves as many problems as any opposition.
‘But then, after conceding the equaliser, they had a few minutes to look at what a draw might mean for them, for their season and their future. And they turned the game back on itself, in a way they have struggled to do all season. There may lie a lesson, and a promise.’
Daily Mail: Towering Terry steps up to lead rescue act
On Terry: ‘His time at the top is drawing to a close; but on night’s like Wednesday he remains invaluable to Mourinho,’ writes Sami Mokbel.
‘His experience and know-how kept Chelsea from buckling under some early pressure from the Ukrainians. Alongside youngster Kurt Zouma his organisational skill were vital in the heart of Chelsea’s defence. When his manager needed him, the club captain came trumps.
On Costa: ‘Word on the scouting circuit is Chelsea are identifying targets for a new No 9. When Mourinho gave his bench a confused look after Costa wasted a decent opportunity in the 32nd minute we caught a glimpse as to why.
‘The Chelsea manager isn’t overly enamoured with his current first-choice striker at the moment. He started positively, a strong run down the left looked promising. But something’s missing. Where’s that battering ram of a centre-forward that caused havoc last season?’
On Fabregas: ‘The Spaniard publicly denied accusations he was the leader of the alleged player revolt against Mourinho on Tuesday morning.
‘His manager needed his playmaker to show it on the pitch, though. Once again the former Arsenal man flattered to deceive.
‘As you would expect he was economical on the ball and had more touches than any other player on the pitch during the first half. But he isn’t influencing matches in the way he’s capable of.’
On Matic: ‘One of the biggest mysteries of Chelsea’s season so far. Their midfield monster has somehow turned into a pussy cat.
‘Where’s the aggression that’s become synonymous with Chelsea’s engine room over the past 18 months? It can’t have just vanished into thin air.
‘This, on the whole, was an improvement on recent weeks, yet Matic looks a midfielder severely lacking in confidence.’