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Chelsea's Championship Challenge Is Over: Where Did Blues Lose the Battle?

Dan LeveneFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2014

Chelsea's Championship Challenge Is Over: Where Did Blues Lose the Battle?

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    Sang Tan

    Jose Mourinho has conceded Chelsea are out of the title race, following their dismal defeat at Crystal Palace (as reported by ITV).

    The Blues still sit where they have been for much of the season—top of the league.

    But a draw for Manchester City at Arsenal has handed the initiative to Manuel Pellegrini's side—who are two points short, with two games in hand.

    What have Chelsea lacked in the 2013-14 title race? And what do they need to make the 2014-15 one a success?

The Strikers Aren't Good Enough

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    Rui Vieira

    Mourinho knows it—as he was caught out saying (reported by Dominic Fifield in The Guardian).

    And, in their heart of hearts, most Chelsea fans know it. The strikers are sub-standard.

    Samuel Eto'o has occasionally looked good, scoring some important goals against big clubs.

    But the reasons behind his late-August acquisition by the Blues boss are now abundantly clear.

    If the amount of playing time given to Demba Ba is anything to go by, then one can only conclude Mourinho doesn't rate the Senegalese forward.

    And then there is Fernando Torres. He has seldom impressed since his move to Chelsea, but his performances in recent defeats at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace have been beyond abject.

    A new No. 9 is at the very top of the list of summer purchases for Chelsea.

Too Many Old Men

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Yes, they bring experience.

    But players deep into their 30s are always going to lack both the pace and the hunger of younger men.

    For some of Chelsea's senior players, this has looked like a season too many.

    Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole have largely failed to justify their place in a squad at the top end of the Premier League.

    John Terry has had a far better season, but he has still been found out for his lack of pace a number of times.

    One would expect at least two of those three to be off in the summer, possibly with fellow old hand Petr Cech facing competition for his place from bright young thing Thibaut Courtois.

    To be real title contenders, Chelsea need to be much younger at heart.

Away Form Is Poor

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    At Fortress Stamford Bridge, they are impregnable: 44 points out of 48 in the bag.

    But on the road, it is a different story—just 25 from an identical potential haul.

    Defeats at the Britannia Stadium, Villa Park, Selhurst Park, Goodison Park and St. James Park prove that life on the road for Chelsea is anything but a walk in the park.

    There is more to it than simple unfamiliarity with the surroundings.

    Chelsea come up against sides that are organised in a different way when they play on their own home grounds.

    And, so often, Mourinho's men find it tricky to battle through those defences.

    There were also draws at Old Trafford, White Hart Lane, The Emirates and The Hawthorns.

    The road to the title is just that, a road. And Chelsea have met too many roadblocks along the way.

They Can't Finish off Teams

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    The signs were there right at the start of the season—away to Manchester United.

    We now know that David Moyes' side were there for the taking, but Chelsea just didn't take them.

    A dour 0-0 draw later, and Chelsea had dropped their first points of the season.

    When West Ham came to Stamford Bridge—one of only two games in which Chelsea faltered at home—it was a similar story of missed opportunities.

    And away to West Brom was another game the Blues should have steamrolled through before they were pegged back.

    More clinical strikers, who take the chances they are given, are a part of this. But the whole team needs to work better as a unit.

Miracles Don't Happen Overnight

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Two seasons ago, Chelsea finished 25 points off champions Manchester City.

    Last season it was 14 off title-winners Manchester United.

    This season, there is a good chance Blues will be half a dozen or fewer points behind whoever eventually lifts the trophy.

    The curve on the graph is going in the right direction, but title-winning sides cannot be easily crafted overnight from ones that weren't even close just 12 months earlier.

    There needs to be a change in both culture and personnel. Mourinho is clearly working on both aspects.

    Next season, Chelsea will be ones to watch.

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