Chelsea’s rocky start to 2018 continued on Monday night with an embarrassing 4-1 defeat against Watford at Vicarage Road, to follow their 3-0 mauling by Bournemouth last time out.
In what was the Blues’ 10th game since the start of January, Antonio Conte and his team looked fairly frazzled as they eventually surrendered to a late salvo from their hosts.
Things weren’t helped when Tiemoue Bakayoko capped a risible first-half performance by getting himself sent off for two bookable offences with just 30 minutes played, the French midfielder once again struggling to look anything other than clumsy and cumbersome.
The Hornets then seized a 1-0 lead to take in at the break when Thibaut Courtios came haring out of his goalmouth and afforded Gerard Deulofeu the opportunity to go sprawling theatrically over his outstretched arms to win a penalty.
The spot-kick was duly converted by Troy Deeney, who celebrated his emphatic finish by giving the jeering Chelsea fans behind the goal a special wave.
Conte’s ten-man outfit plugged away and finally forced an equaliser in the 82nd minute when Eden Hazard curled home a smart finish from outside the box, only for the goal to spark a strange implosion.
With a renewed sense of impetus, Watford went and scored three further goals in the space of seven maddening minutes, with Daryl Janmaat, Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra all adding to Chelsea’s woes in the 84th, 88th and 91st minute respectively.
With each blow, the visitors’ defence appeared to get more and more passive.
And lo, so it ended 4-1, with Conte looking well and truly drained after the match.
Indeed, without actually saying as much, the Italian seemed resigned to his fate when facing reporters in the tunnel.
My position is the same. There is no pressure. I work – if this is enough, it is okay. Otherwise, the club have to take another decision.
Given that he seemed destined to leave at the end of the season anyway, it perhaps wouldn’t come as a shock if Roman Abramovich expedited the decision by a few months – Chelsea managers have certainly been sacked for less than dismal back-to-back defeats against mid-table fare.
As for Watford, Javi Gracia’s side remain in 11th place but are now stationed both six points from the Europa League spots and six points from the relegation zone.
What an absurd division.