Thursday, 20 September 2012

Chelsea 2 Juventus 2

Oh dear. Another drab performance livened up by a stunning Oscar goal. Roberto di Matteo is learning to use the media well to blame the stamp on Oscar as some turning point of the game but to be frank there are bigger issues at hand as to why we did not win yesterday.

I love the European Cup. Away games are special but it is also always a spectacle to watch visiting fans to the bridge. Juventus did not disappoint with some real partisan support and songs ranged from a singalong to “Popeye the Sailor Man” to Depeche Mode’s “I Just Can’t Get Enough”. There were some other less than pleasant songs directed towards us and although I respect the fact that they are trying to learn some of our language, singing, “F**k off Chelsea” was probably not one of the friendliest chants I have heard.

The atmosphere was one of the stranger ones. Whether it was a hangover from the QPR game or perhaps too many tourists visiting there was something missing from the crowd. Perhaps we have been spoilt and see Juventus at home as just another game – 20 years ago I would have thought playing Juventus would be the pinnacle of my Chelsea supporting career.

Many of my generation grew up watching Italian football on a Sunday on Channel 4 and it seemed to be how football should have be played (if you ignored the playacting). The only downside was that if you left your TV in the middle of the match to wash your hands then that was when you usually missed a goal which involved a midfielder scoring a goal with an overhead kick from the halfway line. How my view of Italian football has changed with the corruption exposure in recent years. Both the quality of football and attendances has dwindled and Italy is a distant third choice for many players after England and Spain.

Nevertheless, we played a Juve team that was unbeaten last season in Serie A. Apart from Buffon and Pirlo though I was ignorant of the makeup of their team – whereas in the 90s I could probably tell you their normal starting XI if asked.

Juve should have scored at least once in the first half with two clear-cut one-on-ones. How our back four was penetrated so easily is a mystery but fingers have to point at Luiz and unfortunately Mikel. Passing was sloppy and it was almost embarrassing to see how isolated Torres was up front. Hazard was played out of position on the left to accommodate Oscar in midfield and Ramires again looked lost on the right wing. And yet again, Hazard was not awarded what seemed a good shout for a penalty.

It is only the Champions’ League group stages and early days of the season with several new players in the squad looking to adjust. However, seeing Mikel pushed up front in the final minutes to win headers gave me flashbacks to the 1980s. Again, my feeling is that if we do not have any natural wingers then we should not play with any. If those who run our club believe that we will somehow turn into Barcelona overnight and just nutmeg opposition defences before dinking it into the back of the net then they are in for a shock. We simply do not have that quality for now.

You cannot argue that it wasn’t an entertaining or interesting game – but I am beginning to hark for those Mourinho days where we would see opposition off like this by the odd goal. Cahill back in defence please and if we have to play a defensive midfielder then please can we choose one who can pass to his fellow players. Chelsea, we need to perk up.

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