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.

Monday, 17 September 2012

QPR 0 Chelsea 0

It’s not often that I attend a Chelsea match completely sober but it certainly helps to analyse the play better rather than rely on those in the pub afterwards to give their distorted view of the game.

Saturday was on odd occasion where events off the pitch overshadowed those on it – the media did not get any red cards or crowd violence to report and the biggest offence was Anton Ferdinand refusing to shake hands. Big deal. All it proves is that immaturity runs in the family and reflects more on him than the Chelsea players.

Chelsea dominated the first half. The referee was certainly not on our side and it already seems that some of Hazard’s ‘falls’ in the middle of the field are resulting in the referee not awarding him decisions in more important areas. The foul on him by the lively SWP was one of the most blatant penalties I have ever seen – the JT one should’ve been given too. If that foul had occurred anywhere else on the pitch it would have resulted in a free kick. Rules have to be tightened up in the penalty area as time after time we see players holding each other’s shirts with no action taken against them. It is not rugby.

Even without the two penalties Chelsea had two clear-cut chances to score in the first half. The first was from Hazard after brilliant work from the much maligned Ramires on the right (who is being played out of position). Fans seem to be giving Hazard some real support but the two chances he had to score in the game were not taken – for all his skill in midfield he really needs more consistency when through on goal. His shot near the end of the match that he skied over the bar was one where he was under no pressure and hit with his “wrong” foot.

Torres flattered to deceive again. Some brilliant fancy footwork here and there and when through on goal no result. I have no idea why Chelsea fans give him such support when there are players who appear hungrier waiting in the wings. Are we just too embarrassed to leave someone who cost £50 mio on the bench? His attitude of storming down the tunnel when substituted was simply disgraceful.

We should have had this game sewn up by half-time but in the second half you felt that both the fans and the players had given up. Although we have had a good start to the season I do fear how we will fare against better opposition – and I do not want to have a league season like last year when we did not finish in the top four.

Mata was missed (even though I still believe he is one-footed). Although the formation of the side looks solid, Ramires is not a winger on the right and neither is Bertrand on the left. Perhaps it is time to flood the midfield and use Ivanovic and Cole as attacking full backs? We do have Mikel to provide cover in his role as defensive midfielder.

Chelsea deserved to win but looked tired. There are some worrying signs and although on paper QPR do have some decent individual players this was a side we should have beaten. Not panicking quite yet but the upcoming fixture against Arsenal looks a real test.

Am looking forward to Juve and it is interesting to hear that key players were rested for them so they could be at full strength against us – wasn’t that what we were doing ten years ago? How times have changed! Come on Chelsea, we know we can do better.