Chelsea have a new manager and almost an entirely new team, but the same problems.
Mauricio Pochettino's side were booed off for a second consecutive match after their difficult start to the season continued with a goalless draw at Bournemouth yesterday. Vice-captain Ben Chilwell went over to apologise to supporters and quell growing anger in the away end.
Huge chances were squandered by Nicolas Jackson, Conor Gallagher and Levi Colwill, while Raheem Sterling hit the bar with an excellent free-kick in the second half. Chelsea could have won it, but ultimately did not control the match and were just as disappointing as they were unlucky
Mykhailo Mudryk was lively on the ball, but his erratic movement and positional play unsettled Chelsea on his first start of the season.
Jackson is their main No9, but he appears to be losing confidence game by game, having scored just once in six matches, while Sterling looks overburdened around such young attackers.
Pochettino tried to win the match from his bench by bringing on Cole Palmer, Ian Maatsen and Chilwell, but Chelsea were outgunned by Bournemouth's bench. Opposing manager Andoni Iraola brought on better players, which led to two late chances for striker Dominic Solanke.
Pochettino bemoaned his substitute options, with two goalkeepers, Djordje Petrovic and Lucas Bergstrom, joined by four academy players — Alex Matos, Ronnie Stutter, Alfie Gilchrist and Deivid Washington — on the bench.
It is remarkable that despite spending £1billion since they were taken over last summer (albeit having sold around £400m worth of talent) it has come to this. Chelsea's big spending has not improved their squad.
Thirteen internationals left in the summer and 11 younger players joined to create the youngest squad in the Premier League, averaging just 23.5 years. Lesley Ugochukwu yesterday became the 37th player to start a Premier League match for Chelsea in 2023, the club unsurprisingly using more players than any of their rivals.
Chelsea have had more starters than goals (28) or points (25) this year, which highlights the turbulence at Stamford Bridge. Each new player needs a certain amount of time to adapt to the pressure, level and expectation demanded by supporters. Injuries are further undermining Pochettino, after Moises Caicedo, Noni Madueke and Marc Cucurella all pulled out ahead of kick-off.
They joined a new 12-strong injury list, with star players Reece James, Christopher Nkunku and Wesley Fofana also among those out injured.
Just six games into his Chelsea reign, Pochettino faces the same problems as predecessors Graham Potter, Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel. His good pre-season work in the United States was built around gruelling training sessions that would allow his team to play his high-energy football. That fitness and cohesion has been undone by injuries and his system is getting less effective week by week.
It is feeding into external negativity which is threatening to undo the team spirit he has tried to foster and the pressure is only going to ramp up ahead of a testing run of games.
As fan opinion slowly turns, Pochettino has gone from not ruling out a title challenge to being increasingly forthright about Chelsea's current plight.
"I have nothing to say," he said when asked about the reaction of the fans. "They can do whatever they want. We know what we need to do, we are strong in our belief. We have had bad luck. We had 12 injured today, plus Noni, Cucurella and Caicedo. Then we have four young guys and two keepers on the bench.
“Okay, am I going to cry, am I going to complain? No, I need to accept this, the challenge, and keep being positive."
Chelsea have long-term promise but look ill-equipped to deal with the short-term demands and problems faced by Pochettino.