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Will Tidey - Chelsea without Lampard are a ship without a rudder

Published: 25 Nov 2010 - 08:06:18

These are unusually choppy waters for the Ambramovich-era Chelsea. Stuttering performances and just three points from their last four Premier League games have raised the possibility of a mini-collapse at Stamford Bridge. The panic is palpable.

Carlo Ancelotti is not shirking the issue. The Chelsea who started the season with back-to-back 6-0 wins, scything through West Brom and Wigan like a team of footballing assassins, have lost their potency and their manager knows it.

After scoring 25 times in their first five Premier League games, Chelsea have managed just one in their last four. And in the build-up to Tuesday night's meeting with MSK Zilina, Ancelotti stole the journalists' thunder.

"The problem is on the pitch because, this season, we shot 200 times on the goal. The first 100 shots we had, 21 per cent of chances were converted into goals. The last 100 shots we had just 5 per cent converted," Ancelotti said.

The Chelsea manager proceeded to hold his strikers back for extra shooting practice, but much good it did in the stodgy 2-1 win against Champions League whipping boys MSK Zilina.

What followed was a vote of confidence for Ancelotti - not from Ambramovich, but from the dressing room. But while the players gathered around their under-fire manager, their outspoken doubts quickly undermined any fleeting notion of optimism.

"We've lost our fear factor," said Florent Malouda. "We have to resolve our problems, because we're not playing well," added Didier Drogba.

Suddenly Chelsea look vulnerable and unstable. The sacking of Ray Wilkins was ill-timed and ill-managed, and while it's effect on Chelsea's form is negligible, the message it sent to their rivals was one of inner chaos. Not togetherness.

Fortunately for Chelsea the answer to their problems is already on the payroll. Frank Lampard's three-month absence has hurt his side more than Ancelotti could possibly have imagined, and he'll be desperate to get the league's premier attacking midfielder back on the field.

Without him Chelsea lack thrust, they lack imagination, and they lack goals. Lampard delivered 27 last season and led his team in assists.

You could argue it's Chelsea weakness to have such a reliance on one player. But in truth Lampard is such a phenomenon that almost any side (England doubts withstanding) would be considerably weakened by his absence.

Chelsea are a ship without a rudder right now. But don't be surprised if they revert to their swashbuckling early-season form when that rudder returns. And the goals start flying in again.

The big question, therefore, is whether the damage done during Lampard's absence will be salvageable upon his return.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey

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