Despite spending more than £600 million on players over the past two transfer windows, Chelsea have endured an utter shambles of a season with yet another abject performance in Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat at Arsenal leaving them 12th in the Premier League.
The Blues have now lost all six of their games under caretaker manager Frank Lampard, whose own managerial losing streak stands at 10 games if the final four results of his dire stint at Everton earlier this season are also taken into account.
What’s more, a 12th-place finish would represent the club’s worst final placing in the Premier League since they washed up in 14th back in 1993-94.
The five-time Premier League champions are on 39 points, nine above the relegation zone with 33 games played — still one point shy of the “magic” 40, which is usually the target for teams battling to avoid the drop. And should Lampard’s defective team fail to arrest the slide and lose their final four league fixtures, things will get worse. Much worse.
Indeed, should results elsewhere among the other clubs still fighting for survival conspire against the beleaguered Blues between now and the end of the league campaign on May 28, then their dreadful season will end in utter catastrophe as relegation remains a mathematical possibility.
Below is one of the more realistic sequences of hypothetical results which could condemn Chelsea, crowned champions of Europe just two years ago, to playing in the Championship next season. While the precise score lines of most matches might not be critically important, there is still a goal difference swing to be considered that could be decisive between Chelsea and Leicester City finishing in 18th place.
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Olley: Chelsea were a shambles vs. Arsenal
James Olley reacts to Chelsea’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal in the Premier League.
Manchester City 2-1 West Ham United
Things would kick off with West Ham ending this week’s round of fixtures by losing at title-chasers Manchester City on Wednesday to remain 15th in the Premier League table on 34 points from 34 games.
AFC Bournemouth 2-1 Chelsea
Manchester City 2-2 Leeds United
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 Aston Villa
West Ham United 3-2 Manchester United
Fulham 1-2 Leicester City
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 Everton
Nottingham Forest 2-1 Southampton
The first of the remaining four full rounds of fixtures would start with the Blues stumbling to a defeat at Bournemouth before both Everton and Leicester City win below them, thrusting the latter up and out of the drop zone at Leeds’ expense despite new Elland Road boss Sam Allardyce getting a surprise draw at Manchester City. Meanwhile, Nottingham Forest, Wolves and West Ham also claim crunch victories to move away from the dotted line of doom.
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Leeds United 2-1 Newcastle United
Crystal Palace 2-1 Bournemouth
Chelsea 1-2 Nottingham Forest
Southampton 2-1 Fulham
Manchester United 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Brentford 1-2 West Ham United
Everton 2-3 Manchester City
Leicester City 2-1 Liverpool
Chelsea suffer a home defeat against fellow scrappers Nottingham Forest, against whom they drew 1-1 at the City Ground on New Year’s Day, while Big Sam’s new manager bounce continues with a home win over Newcastle. Vital victories for Southampton, West Ham and Leicester (who overturn Liverpool on home soil) coupled with a loss for Wolves would make things even tighter at the bottom end of the Premier League table; Chelsea drop down to 15th, just three places and five points above the drop zone with two rounds of games left to play (though the Blues still have a game in hand.)
Bournemouth 1-2 Manchester United
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-2 Everton
Nottingham Forest 2-2 Arsenal
West Ham United 1-2 Leeds United
Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 Southampton
Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea
Newcastle United 2-0 Leicester City
Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
With dark clouds gathering overhead, Chelsea play twice to make up their game in hand but lose on two chastening trips to Manchester within the space of four days to extend their Premier League losing streak to eight games. Meanwhile, Forest, Leeds and Everton manage to add crucial points to their tallies and a defeat for Leicester against high-flying Newcastle draws the Blues to within three points of the relegation zone heading into the final day of the season.
Crystal Palace 1-2 Nottingham Forest
Arsenal 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Chelsea 0-2 Newcastle United
Everton 2-0 Bournemouth
Southampton 0-2 Liverpool
Leeds United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City 2-1 West Ham United
Chelsea end the campaign with a loss against Newcastle, their 11th straight defeat in all competitions, in front of a horrified Stamford Bridge as the unthinkable scenario slowly unfolds.
Elsewhere, resurgent Leicester’s third win in four games sees the Foxes bound above the Blues on goal difference as interim manager Dean Smith pulls off a truly memorable escape act. Everton’s win over Bournemouth isn’t enough for Sean Dyche to save them after taking over from Lampard at Goodison Park, but a priceless victory for Nottingham Forest over Crystal Palace sees them avoid immediate demotion back to the Championship by a single point, joining Leicester in leapfrogging Chelsea to do so.
In this scenario, Frank Lampard’s team (assuming he is still in charge by then) would finish the season in 18th place, level on 39 points with Leicester but beneath the Foxes on goal difference, condemning them to relegation from the top flight for the first time since 1987-88.
Southampton (20th, 27 points) and Everton (19th, 38 points) would join the Blues in going down. Above them, Nottingham Forest, Wolves, Leeds and West Ham would all survive the drop by a narrow margin, finishing level on 40 points with goal difference alone separating 16th and 13th in the final table.
Of course, this is all hypothetical; Caesars Sportsbook was not offering odds on Chelsea to go down as of Wednesday morning. But with the Blues entering the final month of the season still with relegation being possible and on such a bad run of results, nothing can be ruled out at this stage.
ESPN’s Dale Johnson contributed to this report