Chelsea talked about the curse of the No9 in the past but now it is the number 10 haunting the club.
After Riyad Mahrez’s 63rd-minute strike consigned the west Londoners to a 1-0 defeat last night, they remained 10th in the Premier League.
The Blues are 10 points behind Manchester United and Newcastle in their bid to finish in the top four.
Christian Pulisic, Chelsea’s No10, came off with a knee problem, becoming the 10th player to get injured.
Graham Potter rightly lauded his team that threatened and competed with City throughout the match but he now counts the cost, as he prepares to face Pep Guardiola’s side again in the FA Cup.
He will travel to Manchester to play the champions after Raheem Sterling had to be taken off after hurting his hamstring in the first minute of last night’s match. Rarely injured, Mason Mount took a kick in training ahead beforehand and could not play.
“When it rains, it pours,” said Potter ahead of kick-off. Afterwards, he said: “I’ve never experienced anything like it and I’d ideally not want to experience it here. But it is what it is, I have to just carry on.”
He had already lost Reece James, N’Golo Kante, Wesley Fofana, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Edouard Mendy, Armando Broja and Ben Chilwell before the match.
Potter will feel that everything is against him succeeding at Chelsea after losing so many players. Fitness issues have plagued Chelsea since last season when, according to a study by Howden’s European Football Injury Index, the Blues suffered 97 injuries — 16 more than any other side across Europe’s top five leagues.
Club doctor Paco Biosca and head physio Thierry Laurent left the club as part of a cull by the new Boehly-Clearlake ownership. They believed City, Liverpool and even clubs such as Brighton had more progressive medical departments. The issue has not yet been resolved.
A private physiotherapy firm used by celebrities including Dave Grohl, Morrissey and Katie Price has stepped up in place of the long-serving staff. Even still, they have overseen some injuries that some believe avoidable. James Ralph, James’s personal physio, hinted at anger towards the reintroduction of his client to playing after he returned from injury after the World Cup.
“I need to bite my tongue despite having a lot to say,” he posted on Instagram.
Fofana also suffered a similar setback in his recovery, coming off visibly upset, according to those present, in the final friendly against Brentford before the Premier League restarts.
It is understood that players are concerned with the situation after seeing Kante’s career ravaged by a series of niggling injuries. The France star was once regarded as the best defensive midfielder in the world but, ahead of contract negotiations with Chelsea and Barcelona, his injuries have hurt his ability to command a big salary.
Youngsters Carney Chukwuemeka, 19, Omari Hutchinson, 19, and Lewis Hall, 18, could play a big part in the FA Cup on Sunday. It might be a heavy burden but they are now charged with saving the club’s season with the Cup a realistic prospect of silverware.
Amid an injury crisis, it is on them and the few remaining senior players to help Chelsea save their season and to avoid three defeats in a row against Guardiola’s side.