To see the rabbit-in-headlights defending that has engulfed Chelsea in recent weeks makes it all the more unfathomable that the club flirted with the idea of releasing John Terry in the summer.
Gary Cahill has been culpable for identical defensive errors in the last two league games. David Luiz has been less at fault, but showed glimpses of his poor judgement under high balls against Leicester in the EFL Cup, while Branislav Ivanovic continues to deteriorate.
The capability of all three to perform to the standard expected by Antonio Conte has been slipped under the microscope since Terry injured his ankle in the closing stages of the draw with Swansea.
He’ll be 36 in December, yet the Chelsea skipper remains head and shoulders above any option his new Italian manager has at the back.
In the four games Terry has started this term Chelsea have a goal difference of +5, in the four he’s either started from the bench or missed entirely that figure falls to an alarming -1.
Gossip columns have suggested that Conte will embark on a defensive overhaul in January, but clearly his first step to making the team more sturdy is to reinstate his leader at the earliest opportunity.
That chance appears to be coming extremely quickly, with the defender narrowly missing out on selection for the recent Arsenal mauling. The trip to Hull next weekend looks like a very realistic return given the catastrophic result at the Emirates.
Terry’s comeback should see Cahill pay the price for two careless pieces of play with the ball at his feet.
On both occasions Leroy Fer and Alexis Sanchez closed the Englishman quickly, stole the ball and scored. The former’s tackle may well have been illegal in the scheme of things, nevertheless lessons clearly hadn’t been learned one week later.
Kurt Zouma is also back in training and could be jettisoned into the first team in place of Luiz should the Brazilian fail to click with Terry.
The Frenchman partnered his veteran teammate to eight clean sheets in 20 all-competition outings last season and could quickly establish himself as Terry’s number one cohort upon his reappearance.
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