Arrrrgh! It wasn’t meant to start to like this, Boas’ journey with Chelsea. A draw at Stoke might be seen as a decent result on an opening day. In league football, a draw against a team that’s not your rival, is never a good result. This draw, is also not a good result. But the good thing is, today is day one of the premier league.
Sir Alex must be grinning as Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea fail to win their matches. Man Utd are known to draw and lose in August and September. So, I’ll be hoping that they maintain their tradition this season too. If West Brom had manage to hold Man Utd, I’d be happy with this weekend’s results and probably then, I’d call our draw against Stoke, a good result. But, they didn’t.
The match had its good bits and bad bits. When a match against a bottom half team ends in 0-0, the overwhelming feeling would be that of disappointment but there are some things worth mentioning. Okay, let’s jump straight into the match.
Fernando Torres finding his feet: This is the Fernando Torres that we paid a fortune for. He was very alive and sharp. All through his stay on the pitch, he was beating his men and creating chances for himself and for others. was very unclucky not to get a penalty when he was dragged back by the defender with the keeper bringing him down as well. I still don’t think we served him well. Most of his good bits were created all by himself. Good stuff.
Alex, Mikel and Ramires: Alex was phenomenal. He played with such determination that it’s hard to believe that there are talks of him leaving Chelsea. He was very very noticeable in defensive set pieces, in Stoke’s counterattacks, in our attacking corners and was the first to reach the loose ball in his zone, every single time. Mikel had a good game too, doing what he always does best and he did come very close to scoring a blinder. Ramires enjoyed his freedom on the attacking end of the pitch. He was always on the run. Very committed.
The efforts in the second half: The first half was a drab. The second half was quite different. We raised the tempo and were pressing Stoke all over the pitch. Only in the second half, we were truly threatening. Interestingly, we weren’t waiting till the 80th minute to up the tempo like it used to be under Carlo. Right from the start of the second half, we showed the urgency to score.
Boas in the touchline: You know what, I liked Boas’ presence in the touchline. He looked quite smart and very well dressed for his first match of the premier league. His reactions on the touchline to the happenings on the pitch were very reminiscent of our own Roman Abramovich.
Eva Carneiro: Best thing to happen in the first half. When Chelsea and Stoke refusing to entertain the crowd, the TV audience at least got to see the glimpses of this beautiful young lady. Good to see a female face in a football dugout.
Penalty-free Referee: Mark Halsey had something against Chelsea. Did Ashley Cole shoot his son or did Terry shoot his . . . whatever. Something was wrong. There were at least two clear penalty chances denied for us – foul on Torres and on Lampard. In my eyes, both were very clear penalties. They could have the changed the course of the game. With the kind of mood we were in the second half, we would have followed up that penalty with more goals.
Inability to break down Stoke: The first half almost reminded us of the last season. We just didn’t know how to break down this strong Stoke defence. The line-up that we chose just couldn’t surprise Stoke. In a way, it wasn’t a surprise that we struggled to create chances with this line-up. We needed some magic, some special effort. It didn’t look like it would arrive from anyone, apart from Torres.
Lame first half: It was boring. Very boring. The ‘throws-on-target’ were more than the shots on target. In fact, neither team had a shot on target. Both teams played as if they only wanted to settle this match in the second half. In many ways, the match was played out like the inconsequential last match of the champions league group stage. Boring.
Sore-starter Kalou: If there’s one universal truth in football, it is Kalou can never be a good starter, he’s a super-sub and that’s what he will be. He was wasteful as always with terribly poor final ball and even worse passing. He even managed to miss a simple header set up by Torres. If Benayoun had played in place of Kalou today, it could have made a big difference.
Waning Lampard: Bad, bad match for him. Mostly invisible. See, I’m his greatest fan but if he’s playing like this, he’s hurting our chances to win a football match. Last season, Carlo was guilty of playing Essien and Lampard even when they were totally ineffective. Boas has a decision to make. If he can bench Drogba for Torres, he can do that to Lampard as well. And he should.
Big boy Begovic: Great game for the Stoke keeper. He’s a quality keeper, we know. It’s fair to say, it was Begovic who kept Stoke in the game. If it was Almunia on goal, we might have won 3-0. He’ll surely be picked up by a top team very soon. Why do all these keepers produce their best efforts against Chelsea FC?
CHELSEA’S MAN OF THE MATCH
Fernando Torres. Few other contenders in Alex and Cech. In a game against Stoke that ends in 0-0, I’d be inclined to pick an attacking effort for man of the match. Fernando Torres just didn’t play like a man who had a concussion in the mid-week. He was on fire and it was a pity that we couldn’t get the best out of him today. C’mon Nando! This season belongs to you!
In my line-up, I picked Josh, Yossi and Drogba. Just like the foresight (in this case), the hindsight should also tell us, we should have started these three players. Imagine how we would have played today, if Drogba was in place of Kalou, Josh instead of Mikel (with Ramires as CDM) and Benayoun instead of Malouda. When you play teams like Stoke, you know it’s going to be hard to break them down. That’s one good reason to play Josh and Yossi. Another important reason is, if you’re playing Torres as the lone striker, do make sure you play one of these two play makers.
It’s only the first game of the season. Slow start doesn’t mean not winning the premier league title. We might sign a couple of players shortly. Lukaku would be available for next weekend. We still need to up the tempo of our game. We need to play younger and hungrier players. As I write this, I’m watching Manure play. They are fit, quick and bloody threatening with every single attack. We are just not at their level yet.
Boas should be disappointed that he couldn’t start his Chelsea adventure with a win. If he can learn anything from Carlo’s time at Chelsea, it would be that your rewards are directly proportional to your risks. There’s a lot of time. We can settle down and improve. And most importantly, peak when it matters unlike last season. Next weekend, we’d play West Brom at Stamford Bridge. And that’s where Boas would win his first premier league match for Chelsea. All right. Take care now. Bye bye then!