Roman Abramovich told friends that last month's demolition of Aston Villa was – probably – the best and among the most enjoyable, display Chelsea had achieved since he bought the club more than five years ago. Some claim.
Tuesday's chaotic defeat to Roma will rank among the worst. It was more reminiscent of the Champions League debacles in Monaco under Claudio Ranieri and Liverpool under Jose Mourinho than the imperious, thrilling performances that the owner still craves for and, occasionally, gets.
It was always going to be like this under Luiz Felipe Scolari – more of a roller-coaster coach than his predecessors at Chelsea. The highs will be high but the lows will be low. Chelsea will play more attractive football, score more goals, win by wider margins than under Mourinho, but they will also have more off-nights.
Rome certainly ranks among them. "If we're going to perform like that we will get nowhere near the Champions League final. That's a simple fact," said captain John Terry, when reminded that next May's final is also in the Italian capital. "It was a terrible night for us. We didn't get going. We sort of strolled in thinking we were better than them when clearly we're not. Maybe that's a kick up the backside we all needed."
Terry was certainly in no mood to pull punches. "You'll get the same message from every player," he added. "We all felt disappointed but that's the big target and that's why we're in this competition, to come back in May. That's what we're all striving for, but based on Tuesday's performance, we've got no chance. We didn't fight. Even after we went one and then two down, we didn't show the fight and desire that's got us where we've been over the last few years. It doesn't happen with us like that.
"Everybody has seen how we've been playing, the fans and everybody in the country. We've been working, the movement has been great and we've been fighting for each other. First and foremost, when you go to a place like Rome, or anywhere else in the world, you need to fight and show more determination than them and win the game. If it comes down to quality, then nine times out of 10 we're better than most sides."
No one would argue with Terry's assessment especially Scolari who described some of Chelsea's play as "crazy" and also, unusually, singled out John Obi Mikel for criticism. The young midfielder, in talks over a new four-year contract, had a miserable evening and was at fault for two of Roma's goals while Terry, Alex and Wayne Bridge also had poor games.
Worryingly Chelsea have now won just one of their last eight Champions League away ties. Of those they have lost three – including last season's final which went to a penalty shoot-out – while Group A which should have been a stroll for them has become a far tighter contest. All four teams can still qualify with Chelsea having to travel in three weeks' time, to face an improving Bordeaux.
It means an assessment, already underway, will intensify as to what Scolari, whose substitutions and tactics were questionable in Rome, needs to go forward from here. There is a debate as to what scale of funds should be made available in January and next summer.
Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho, Ashley Cole and, eventually, Michael Essien will all return but there are key areas of the squad, especially in attack, that need strengthening while the suspicion lingers that Chelsea need new blood if they are also to gather new momentum. Scolari has surprised some by his desire and hunger since arriving at Chelsea – he now needs to take that onto yet another level.
Results: Chelsea 4 Bordeaux 0; Roma 1 CFR Cluj 2; CFR Cluj 0 Chelsea 0; Bordeaux 1 Roma 3; Bordeaux 1 CFR Cluj 0; Chelsea 1 Roma 0; Roma 3 Chelsea 1; CFR Cluj 1 Bordeaux 2
Chelsea's remaining group stage fixtures: 26 Nov: Bordeaux (a); 9 Dec: CFR Cluj-Napoca (h).Reuse content