POOR OLD Antonio Conte. No sooner does he plug one gap in his team than another yawning chasm opens up in front of him.
With new striker Olivier Giroud sat snug in a blue club parka behind the dugout on his first day in the job, it looked like Chelsea’s season would accelerate into the run-in with a flurry of goals.
Only for Conte’s defence to collapse in front of his eyes in a defeat that really sums up the problems facing the head coach.
For how much longer is becoming a more and more pertinent debate. The speculation of in-fighting and political divisions inside Stamford Bridge can be argued one way or the other.
A thumping great 3-0 defeat at home to one of the worst teams in the league is a stark, staring fact that will hit everyone at the English champions hard.
As former Chelsea defender Nathan Ake wheeled away in delight at scoring the third of three second half goals, Conte was a well beaten man. Forlorn and dejected, the normal dugout disco dancing routine long gone.
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But on 64 minute it was 2-0 to unfancied Bournemouth.
Junior Stanislas played a neat one-two with Wilson before poking the ball past Thibaut Courtois in the Chelsea goal.
And three minutes later the travelling fans were sent into euphoria.
The ball fell to ex-Chelsea man Nathan Ake in the box after a corner, and he slammed past Courtois for 3-0.
The irony of the final, killer blow being struck against a crumbling back four by a young man who was once one of their own won’t be lost on anybody.
What Giroud made of it we will have to wait and see. He is likely to be thrown straight into the side for an emergency debut next Monday at Watford unless Alvaro Morata can recover from a niggling back injury in time.
Not an easy night to come for the Frenchman who will cost his new club a million quid a month in transfer fee alone over the next 18 months.
Any defeat for Chelsea is big news. Any home defeat is a worry – this was their first since last September.
INTERACTIVE LINE-UPS– CLICK on a player’s number below to see their stats
But a ruddy great 3-0 demolition by a team which hasn’t won away since November is the sort of thing that can make or break a manager at Chelsea; especially one that looks on his way out already anyway.
To make matters worse Chelsea lost their best defender Andreas Christensen to a hamstring injury after only 27 minutes. But they still should have had enough in the locker to deal with last night’s opposition.
There was a time when it seemed like the old, brash Chelsea, cocksure and pumped full of Russian roubles, would have gone out at half time and brought in a top class defender just to cover Christensen’s injury – even on deadline day.
But that was then and this is now. The new Chelsea has had its day as the new money in English football and is now living within its means in relative austerity.
Despite signing three players during January: Giroud, Emerson Palmieri and Ross Barkley, there is a feeling of ho-hum about the club’s muscle in the market.
Despite being champions of England they have brought in an experienced striker as cover, a left back who has played only one full game this season and a midfielder in Barkley still on the comeback trail after six months out with injury.
Maybe that is how it should be in mid-season. Most managerial text books state that the big spending should be done in the summer, not as a disruptive influence slap bang in the midst of a campaign.
But with every hike in TV money piling into our clubs, more and more sense is going out of the window and this January window has set new highs in fiscal terms.
However, all three new Chelsea players have come in under the radar and it was reflected in the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge and the match itself.
Even when Bournemouth snatched three goals there was no outcry from the Chelsea fans, more just a resigned shrug that once again this club is heading into a limbo period with the axe hanging over the coach and nobody really knowing what’s around the corner.
It’s their heaviest home defeat since April 2016 against Manchester City but amid all the gloom for Chelsea there is joy for Bournemouth.
They deserved the win for taking their chances and slicing Chelsea wide open at critical moments.
Calum Wilson got it going by playing a one-two with Jordon Ibe, leaving Chelsea skipper Gary Cahill for dead then slotting the ball under Thibaut Courtois seven minutes after the break.
Junior Stanislas made it 2-0 with a similar move, breaking in between Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta to put the ball through the keeper’s gaping legs.
And to rub it in Ake nicked the third form deflection off Tiemoue Bakayoko to prod the ball in from six yards.
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