Chelsea have struggled to build momentum in recent weeks. After an incredible unbeaten run to start the 2018/19 Premier League season, Maurizio Sarri’s men have slipped down to fourth spot. With Manchester United and Arsenal now closing in, Chelsea are in danger of slipping down to sixth spot in the race to secure Champions League qualification ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.
Sarri was critical of his team following the 2-0 Premier League defeat to Arsenal and Chelsea fans will expect an instant response. The Blues are heading in the wrong direction at this moment in time but there is plenty of time to turn things around. The former Napoli boss has come under scrutiny for his public humiliation but supporters won’t care too much if results start to improve.
— BBC 5 Live Sport (@5liveSport) January 22, 2019
Chelsea have won just eight of their previous 15 Premier League games – that kind of form will not be good enough to secure a top four finish this campaign. Sarri is a competent head coach but the Blues appear disgruntled. Eden Hazard cuts a frustrated figure playing out of position and he could well be looking to leave Stamford Bridge in the summer. Finishing out of the top four will see the Belgian depart.
A top-four finish and a good FA Cup run would certainly suffice. A fourth-round clash with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday awaits and Blues fans will be confident of moving on to the next round. The Owls, 33/1 in Championship betting relegation odds, may opt to focus on their upcoming league games and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Chelsea make light work of their opponents.
Chelsea lifted the FA Cup trophy last season and Sarri should respect England’s oldest club competition. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp chose to rest most of his first-team players for the clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers and the Reds fell short at Molineux. Should the current Premier League leaders fall short in their pursuit of domestic glory, Klopp may come to rue that decision.
The Blues have the strength in depth to rest a few players but changing the entire starting line-up would be unwise. Chelsea are in real need of support in the final third but Gonzalo Higuain’s impending arrival should give Sarri’s side a lift. One of the most prolific strikers in world football, Higuain should suit Chelsea’s style of football and he could become a fan favourite at Stamford Bridge in the coming months.
Higuain’s goals could end up being the difference between Champions League qualification and finishing fifth. According to Soccerway statistics, Higuain has scored 214 goals in 338 league games since the beginning of the 2008/09 campaign – an incredible return. He has fallen out of favour since moving to AC Milan but Higuain is still one of the most dangerous strikers on the planet.
Chelsea will need to improve quickly in order to fend off Manchester United and Arsenal in the top four battle. The Blues had a significant advantage over their rivals less than a month ago but that gap is now just three points. Sarri arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer but he is already under pressure to deliver. Finishing outside of the top four could see the ruthless Roman Abramovich end his Chelsea tenure early.