Stamford Bridge filled with unease and a bit of boredom as Chelsea defeated Hull

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: A Chelsea fan urges on his team during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Hull City at Stamford Bridge on January 22, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: A Chelsea fan urges on his team during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Hull City at Stamford Bridge on January 22, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images) /

A strange electricity – a quiet tension – circulated through Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Chelsea saw off Hull City. Why were the Blues’ faithful so off their game even as their club extended their lead with another clean sheet?

Whether you were at Stamford Bridge for the Hull game or you watched it on a stream, you could tell something just was not right. The result was great. Chelsea’s control was largely solid. Diego Costa even got his goal to quiet the doubters.

But through it all, the atmosphere was off. There was no real sense of excitement throughout the game. The fans seemed reluctant to get going and even the Hull fans did not produce the usual levels of rowdiness expected from the away end. What was going on?

It may be a trivial thing to accuse, but – as someone who was there –  the fans came across a bit bored. The atmosphere dwindled slowly and painfully as Hull blocked Chelsea’s first half chances. Costa’s blasted a shot with his first touch of the game, but even this could not ignite the crowd.

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Chelsea’s domination usually builds excitement and inspires the fans to cheer for more. In this game, the opposite occurred. Fans grew more disconnected by the minute, lending to an unnecessarily tense feeling.

A somber lull followed the break for treating Ryan Mason’s horrific head injury. This continued for the rest of the half. Costa’s goal and his great celebration were a sight to see, but the momentarily raised spirits did not carry into the second half. When Chelsea began their attacks, there were rarely calls of encouragement from the stands. This is unlike anything I have seen before at Stamford Bridge.

Perhaps expectations are now too high. Maybe fans want to see a star emerge in every game. Marcos Alonso, Pedro, Eden Hazard, Victor Moses and Costa have all taken their turn this season. Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante were impressive, but not in a steal-the-show manner.

It might seem hyperbolic (and a bit entitled) to assume this but perhaps Chelsea’s performances have set the bar too high. Every player’s generally acceptable showing against Hull was too dull compared to the brilliance that has been so commonplace at Stamford Bridge this season.

Fans are accustomed to the players either working like cogs in a perfect machine or the nail-biting uncertainty when things go wrong. Many of Chelsea’s games this season against mid- and lower- table teams came during the unbeaten run. During those 13 games the Blues had a sense of invincibility. The excitement came from the thrill of just how far they could take their victories.

During the winning streak the quality of football nearly overshadowed the quest for three points. Against Hull, however, there was a sense that the result was expected. Chelsea lead the league, Hull is in a relegation battle. Three points seemed a lock. What was left to be excited about?

The Hull fans’ lack of enthusiasm was also surprising. They seemed to share the expectation that one point was the ultimate ambition. As a result they did not feel obliged to encourage their team when they were in possession.

Chelsea’s commanding lead probably continued to the lack of urgency amongst the fans. The Blues were sitting five points clear at the top of the table before kick off. Four of their five top rival dropped points this weekend. The fixture, then, had none of the usual title-chasing pressure. The lead was comfortable from the outset. Add in the general consensus that the win was a lock, and there was not much to fuel the atmospheric fire.

Next: Cesc Fabregas nearly perfect in substitute appearance against Hull City

The simplest explanation for the atmosphere around the Bridge is that it was just one of those days. As the Premier League trophy gets closer the excitement will pick back up. All is good at Chelsea. This was just an off day for the fans. The result is what matters most. Let’s all be sure to channel our inner Antonio Conte for games to come.