Chelsea failed in their mission of establishing a new top-flight record of 12 successive away wins when they were held 0-0 at Everton - but of greater significance were the signs of stress within the ranks.
The Blues had John Terry sent off for a reckless lunge at Leon Osman in the first half and did well to claim a point. But the apparent failure of Luiz Felipe Scolari to accept the decision by referee Phil Dowd suggests a man under pressure.
Scolari insisted a couple of weeks ago that he was calm about his job and that compared to coaching Brazil, Chelsea was a doddle. But he failed to turn up for the post match interview and a succession of draws - the Blues have won only once in five league games - have seriously undermined the club's title aspirations.
Club spokesman Steve Atkins explained neither Scolari or any of his team would attend the the post-match interviews as they had “a number of issues with a number of decisions throughout the game and felt that they would rather say nothing than cause trouble.”
The prime point of contention was, of course, the dismissal of Terry in the 35th minute, but that surely masks a more widespread unease. Scolari might have found one or two people prepared to accept that this was a harsh decision, but he would be unlikely to find any who would accept that his team’s performance was up to scratch.
Chelsea failed to trouble Everton’s goalkeeper after an Ashley Cole strike just two minutes into the game and spent most of the match on the back-foot protecting their own goal.
Scolari chose to play his strikers Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba alone for half the match each, but it was difficult to choose between them – both were ineffectual but at least Anelka looked like he was trying.
Drogba replaced the Frenchman at the beginning of the second period and essentially Chelsea were then down to nine men. The Ivorian is either unfit or unwilling, or both. With this form and attitude Chelsea are better off without him.
This poor attitude wasn’t restricted to Drogba, it seemed to permeate the entire Chelsea team with Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Ashely Cole all being booked for dissent.
Questions are beginning to be asked about Scolari. His resistance to tactical change, his a unwavering support for ineffectual players – Deco and Ballack were particularly poor last night – and the lack of discipline and a winning mentality amongst his team are beginning to worry supporters.
His reluctance to speak with the media last night will also have done him no favours – at least when his predecessor Avram Grant refused to speak at a post-match conference last season he turned up for it.
Who would have thought that with less than than half a season gone and with a world-cup winning manager at the helm that some would be thinking fondly of the days of Grant’s tenure?
Scolari’s Chelsea, however, are still in the title race and have plenty to play for. Some valiant rear-guard defending and a superb display from his goalkeeper Petr Cech gained them a point last night.
There will be sterner tests ahead including trips to Old Trafford and Anfield in the beginning of the year. These will be real challenges for both the manager and his team. They need to improve, significantly to be ready for them.