There was an air of optimism around Stamford Bridge when Maurizio Sarri was named Chelsea boss in July.
For years, Blues fans had endured the defensive, albeit highly successful methods of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte and the desire for a positive change was clear from the Stamford Bridge faithful.
The news that Sarri was being hired – a manager with a philosophy of free-flowing, attacking football, was music to the ears of many Chelsea fans.
And “The Italian Job” got off to a flying start with the Blues cruising to victory in the first five games of the season.
Playing nice football and getting results, many lauded the job the former Napoli manager was doing.
But in recent months Chelsea have hit a stumbling block – and their form at home specifically is a cause for major concern.
Stamford Bridge had been made a fortress by Sarri’s predecessors but this has somewhat changed this season.
Recent draws at home to Everton and Southampton, along with three defeats at Tottenham and Wolves and at home to Leicester has seen “SarriBall” come crashing back down to earth.
Now Chelsea’s hope for a top four finish is under threat from Unai Emery’s Arsenal and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s high-flying United.
talkSPORT.com has explored the reasons why Chelsea’s season has been a disappointment so far this term.
The biggest issue Sarri faces is his striker problem.
Alvaro Morata simply isn’t good enough for Chelsea and is not the man to lead them to Champions League qualification.
The Spaniard’s stats are not even that bad this season, having netted seven goals in 22 appearances, but the amount of chances he misses is frightening, and this was epitomised by his timid effort against Southampton which could have won the match for his side.
When you look at the rest of the ‘Big Six’, you have Sergio Aguero for Manchester City, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Arsenal, Harry Kane at Tottenham, Manchester United’s high-flying Marcus Rashford and then Liverpool’s devastating, interchangeable front three.
Olivier Giroud and Morata are simply not on their level.
If Chelsea are to remain in a Champions League position, they need to recruit a proven prolific striker – here are five strikers they could turn to this month.
N’Golo Kante is the best defensive midfielder in the world – so why play him in another position?
There is no doubting the World Cup winner is improving in his new role – he has notched three goals this season with his latest being the winner against Crystal Palace, but Chelsea are a much more balanced side when he plays in the middle.
Jorginho possesses immense creative talent, but to sacrifice Kante at the expense of the summer signing is wrong and Sarri needs to find a way to change the formation.
Kante has to be in the middle of the midfield three with Jorginho on one side and Ross Barkley or Matteo Kovacic on the other.
We saw at Napoli that Sarri deployed Jorginho in the same role and everything went through him, but he must find a way to work his magic with Jorginho on the side of a midfield trio or more bad results are inevitable.
Another problem Chelsea have is their ageing wingers.
At the start of the season, Pedro and Willian had been rotating on the right of Chelsea’s front three and the Spaniard actually netted six goals quite quickly at the beginning of the season.
But Pedro is now 31 and the fact he is picking up little injuries that are ruling him out of action shows age is catching up with him.
Similarly, Willian is now 30, and although the Brazilian possesses immense talent, he is a lot less prolific than you might think.
This season he has scored two goals in 20 Premier League appearances. Throughout his whole Chelsea career the winger has scored just 27 times in 186 league appearances.
The numbers are not great and one worrying stat is that Willian has the same number of assists (four) for Eden Hazard as Juan Mata, despite the Spaniard leaving Chelsea four seasons ago.
Perhaps the Blues’ new recruit Christian Pulisic can accommodate Hazard better next season.
Another problem for Sarri is that his midfielders simply don’t score enough.
Jorginho is a creator and his singular goal this season came from the penalty spot. He does not possess a lethal shooting ability whatsoever, which is strange for a player who is so gifted technically.
The same can be said of Mateo Kovacic, as the Croatian scored just once for Real Madrid in 78 La Liga matches and has not scored in a blue shirt yet.
The one player in the midfield who can get goals is Ross Barkley.
There was a period when Barkley was playing brilliantly, scoring in three consecutive games against Southampton, Manchester United and Burnley and looked to have cemented a starting place in the line-up. But his performances have tailed off in the busy festive period and he has struggled to make an impact of late.
Marcos Alonso signed a long-term deal in October and the lucrative contract seems to have made the Chelsea full-back complacent in recent months.
The 28-year-old was an essential outlet for Chelsea last season, especially in attack, contributing seven goals and two assists in 33 matches.
But the Spaniard has looked sluggish on the left side of the Chelsea defence in recent matches. He lost possession twice in the run up to Wolves’ two goals in their 2-1 defeat and he also hasn’t posed the attacking threat of last year – having only provided one goal so far this term.
Sarri seems reluctant to give Emerson a run on the left side due to Alonso’s superior height – but a run out for the Italian and a rest for Alonso could benefit the side significantly.
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It would be wrong to suggest Sarri’s first season in charge has only been negative.
Hazard has never been more lethal and is thriving under Sarri’s attacking philosophy even as a false nine, having scored ten goals and created nine in 20 games.
Similarly, Cesar Azplicueta has been superb again and is demonstrating impressive leadership qualities to the side.
Chelsea’s new shot-stopper Kepa has been impressive since his record £71million arrival from Athletic Bilbao, keeping ten clean sheets in 21 matches and making some stunning saves in the process.
But if Sarri’s side are to cement a top-four finish, the priority must be to sort out a goalscorer.