After Chelsea's subsequent losses to West Brom and Juventus in their two most recent matches, it would be fair to say that the Blues have seen better periods in their recent history. But add to that the injury to John Terry and the sacking of manager Roberto Di Matteo, and you might even use the word "crisis."
So now, more than ever, the team needs its senior players to step up in a big way.
In the absence of John Terry, the Chelsea defense seems to be falling apart. In the first six games of the Premier League season, the Blues conceded just three goals. In the subsequent six games, they let in a total of 10 goals. It is no coincidence that Terry missed the majority of the most recent games.
It is hard to place the blame on any one player, as each defender has been guilty of the odd lapse. David Luiz and Ryan Bertrand are among the chief offenders, but what is really lacking is Terry's experience and ability to take control of the defense. Without him, there is no real leader in the back four.
David Luiz seems to be a Chelsea captain in the making, but first he needs to concentrate on becoming a more reliable defender. Gary Cahill has yet to be able to pin down a regular starting place, and Branislav Ivanovic is still being played at right-back, out of his natural position. It will be interesting to see if either of these things changes under the leadership of Rafa Benitez.
That leaves Ashley Cole. Rumored to be on his way out of Stamford Bridge, many are happy to see him go. But his recent injury caused him to sit out matches against Liverpool and West Brom, and, especially in the former, his skills were sorely missed. Although he was part of the 3-0 loss to Juventus, he played much better than the rest of the Chelsea defense.
Now, more than ever, we need to see the kind of form that has made Cole arguably the best left-back in the game. At 31 he is also one of the senior players of this Chelsea squad and, in the absence of Terry and vice-captain Frank Lampard, the responsibility falls to him to take a more prominent leadership role. And it is a responsibility that is even more important as the management changes once again.
Terry is clearly not as reliable as he once was as a Chelsea regular. He may not miss any more games after he returns from this latest absence, but at least until then Cole must be the one to take charge, as he is best-placed to do so. And in the meantime, Chelsea must do whatever they can to secure his signature before his contract runs out.
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