Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team stumbled into the fifth round of the FA cup with their 3-1 win over Ipswich Town on Saturday and although the score-line might imply otherwise, there was little to suggest that Chelsea's recent, well-documented troubles are behind them.
Hopes were high that the drama of the previous week's stunning comeback win against Stoke City would re-launch the Blues' stuttering campaign, but there was scant evidence of that and not even Wednesday night's home game against Middlesbrough looks as routine as it once did.
Chelsea are currently encountering difficulties in every game they play. The free-flowing football admired in the early days of Scolari’s reign has been supplanted by performances ridden with anxiety. Chelea concede an alarming number of goals and lack the inventiveness and ability to brush aside opponents like they used to.
Losses to Rome, Liverpool, Arsenal, Burnley and Manchester United have undoubtedly contributed to the lack of belief which the team currently displays. Ipswich Town’s fightback on Saturday did nothing to assuage Chelsea fans’ fears.
Afterwards, though, an ebullient Ray Wilkins felt there was little to be concerned with and that Scolari "doesn't feel under pressure at all".
"They did have a good spell, but we weren't too worried," said the assistant coach. "We've had similar circumstances with Burnley this year. Southend made it very tough for us, and this was always going to be exactly the same. But, you're not too worried when you think of the quality we have. There was always going to be a period when we'd take hold of the game and create some chances."
Regardless of the positive spin, Chelsea are going to have to up the ante if they’re going to claim any prizes this season. On current form it appears the trophy cabinet might remain bare for a second successive season.
It took a pair of beautifully struck free-kicks from Michael Ballack and the indefatigable Frank Lampard to seal Saturday's tie at the expense of the Championship side, who battled tirelessly throughout, and finished the first half on level terms after Alex Bruce had cancelled out Ballack’s 11th minute opening goal.
Once again, Chelsea were undone by their sloppy defending of a set piece. A free-kick played into the far-post was deflected twice before bouncing off Ricardo Carvalho’s chest. The ball fell kindly for Bruce who fired home from close range.
Chelsea began the second half fairly brightly and Salomon Kalou almost eased the pressure on the home side when he tried to curl a 20-yard shot around Richard Wright into the far corner.
Despite some effort, Chelsea lacked cohesion in attack and did not create another goalscoring opportunity before Scolari replaced the ineffective Florent Malouda with the rehabilitated Didier Drogba in the 57th minute.
Two minutes later, Chelsea's midfield made the breakthrough. Nicolas Anelka was illegally halted in a burst towards the penalty area and Ballack siezed the opportunity with a cracking free-kick curled over the defensive wall for his second goal of the game.
Stand-in skipper Lampard, who had excelled throughout, finally secured the win in tremendous style five minutes from time when he blasted a free-kick a full 35 yards into the top-corner.