This season cannot end quickly enough as far as Chelsea are concerned. They almost secured third place with one game to spare, but this is a club crying out for a fresh start. Everything seems messy at the moment. The defense is vulnerable, the attack unreliable and the concern for Chelsea is that nothing can move until Todd Boehly’s consortium finally ushers in the end of the Roman Abramovich era. These are exhausting times for Thomas Tuchel. Chelsea have won one of their last six home games and that draw with Leicester has done little to boost morale at Stamford Bridge, which will only be full again once Abramovich sells the club.
There was a loose vibe at Chelsea. They had spent the day celebrating the 10th anniversary of their first Champions League title, but there was only so much solace to be found in the past. The present, after all, offers only uncertainty. The takeover has yet to come to fruition and when the cameras picked Boehly in the director’s box at the start, it looked like the American could see exactly why Tuchel thinks Chelsea will struggle to close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool this summer.
That was clear when Tuchel turned away in disgust after Leicester went ahead after six minutes. The laxity, embodied by Marcos Alonso allowing a clearance from Kasper Schmeichel to reach Timothy Castagne on the right flank, was appalling. It was shocking defending Alonso and there was still no reaction when Antonio Rüdiger cut off Castagne’s cross, no one sensed the danger when the ball got to James Maddison.
Where were Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté? Where was Thiago Silva’s cover? The centre-back stepped up but looked out of rhythm after playing through injury against Liverpool. Maddison easily beat the 37-year-old in a flash and his finish, a hard-hitting drive from 20 yards, gave Édouard Mendy no chance.
Tuchel immediately retreated into his canoe. Brendan Rodgers applauded Schmeichel. There may be doubts over the Dane’s future but his value to Leicester cannot be underestimated. Schmeichel remains one of the best goalkeepers in the league and he was soon involved again, brilliantly denying Trevoh Chalobah an instant equaliser.
Chelsea, who had been narrowly passed by Hakim Ziyech, dominated possession. Yet the frustrations persisted. Alonso, who could join Barcelona in the summer, was mocked after misfiring a corner and there were roars when Romelu Lukaku balked after being released by Kanté, allowing Daniel Amartey to recover.
However, Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho were isolated ahead of Leicester. The opposing team fell too deep and the equalizer came when Reece James smartly picked Alonso. The Spaniard’s volley recalled the strongest side of his game.
Chelsea looked ready to take control. There was more urgency at the start of the second half. Christian Pulisic managed some threatening dribbles. Lukaku stirred, throwing a low ball through the box.
Leicester offered nothing as a counter-attacking force. Chalobah was handling Vardy well and Rüdiger looked increasingly bossy. The German will miss Chelsea when he joins Real Madrid. Rebuilding the defence, as Tuchel acknowledged, will be difficult. Andreas Christensen, who hasn’t been involved again, is heading to Barcelona, while César Azpilicueta could also go to Camp Nou.
Times are changing and Chelsea’s problems in defense are not helped by their problems in attack. It was another useless display. Lukaku was guilty, nodding a cross from Ziyech, but he wasn’t the worst culprit. Even Schmeichel looked shocked when Pulisic scuffed himself from six yards out after being picked off by Lukaku.
The frustration grows. Rüdiger, who had just pricked the palms of Schmeichel, was only lucky enough to receive a yellow card for a lunge on Wesley Fofana. Chelsea had fizzled. Leicester, adrift in the middle of the table, held firm. Chelsea could only look to the future.