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Chelsea’s big January to end with a whimper after all


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December drew to a close with the most worrying run of form that Chelsea have had under Thomas Tuchel. The injury to Ben Chilwell at the end of  November started to be felt as the Blues stumbled to draws with a troubled Everton team, Wolves, Zenit St Petersburg and Brighton (twice). A loss against Manchester City and a draw with Liverpool were less surprising results, but they still contributed to the extended pain of watching the Premier League title drift away over a tough six week spell.

The loss of Chilwell, shortly after compounded by Reece James’ injury, shattered the team’s established attacking structure, and lead many fans to react to the successive bad results with calls for signings.

“Tuchel must be backed… the board have to give him an alternative” came a chorus of confident declarations on social media daily, as Chelsea supporters had to watch Marcos Alonso chugging up and down the touchline twice a week for a month.

At first, it seemed like they might be right. Tuchel admitted he was struggling to cope without a good alternative at left back as his squad was stretched exceptionally thin by fixtures and absences. Confident reports emerged showing Chelsea pushing to recall Emerson Palmieri from his loan, and sounding out affordable alternatives across Europe.

Yet as January has progressed, Chelsea’s results improved, and the team has learned to live without its weapons at full back. Tuchel adapted his personnel choices and his formation to cope, and his personal push for new options died away, along with the chorus of demands online.

Deadline day has arrived, and after a frenzied month, it looks set to be “Alonso or bust” from now until May. Whether that is a brave and clear-headed backing of the squad and the manager we already have; or simply a betrayal of their potential by unnecessary frugality from those at the top of the club will depend on your point of view – but we suspect we know what the loudest voices online will be screaming next if things turn ugly once again.

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