Christopher Chang: Will Chelsea push the panic button again?


Petr Cech is now only a few pieces short of a full Darth Vader helmet set. The Chelsea goalkeeper, who has been wearing protective headgear since 2006 when he fractured his skull, added some more armour to his face on the weekend with a guard for his broken nose.

The injury, picked up against Blackburn last week, didn't deter the Czech from lining up against Liverpool. Cech played, bravely, but it might be his manager Andre Villas-Boas who needs some protection soon if results continue to conspire against him.

Ordinarily, it would be absurd to even suggest that the manager of a team sitting in the top six would have his job in jeopardy before the calendar flicks over to December. But this is Chelsea. It's not crisis time - yet - but floating in fifth place with 22 points is the kind of form that will make Roman Abramovich twitchier than Harry Redknapp in the dugout.

Villas-Boas' start has been worse than that of Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Brazilian experiment that went spectacularly wrong, and it is a precarious position that Chelsea find themselves in. There's a hint of familiarity to the unease surrounding the Londoners.

The 34-year-old coach has built up a short but impressive CV already, which he needs to draw on if he is to somehow revive a flailing Fernando Torres.

Since February, Chelsea have won 50 per cent of their Premier League games when Torres has been included in the starting line up. Stack that up against the fact that they have won 75 per cent of matches without him, and there's an obvious tactical solution:
bench him.

He has scored only three league goals since February this year, a dire average of one every 425 minutes.

If Chelsea can find a settled front pairing, it would go a long way to giving them firepower stability. Nicolas Anelka has been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge, and Didier Drogba has not always been preferred by Villas-Boas. Daniel Sturridge is ready to shine, as evidenced by his four goals so far this season - the most of any Chelsea striker.

But Chelsea, for all their tremendous expenditure on talent over the last few seasons, don't appear to have an established starting XI. The manager will have his own ideas on how he wants his Chelsea team to function, but there have been far too many of his predecessors that never got the luxury of time. That, combined with cash for players, would give Chelsea a decent crack at the title.

Patience is a virtue that has eluded Abramovich since he ruthlessly disposed of fan-favourite Jose Mourinho. Villas-Boas can be successful with Chelsea only if the Russian oligarch finally believes his manager's plans are bigger than his own.

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