What a day! The scoreline doesn’t tell you the whole story. This turned out to be a difficult match. Norwich at home – how can this be a difficult match? But it was. Too many nervy moments. After Norwich equalised, our suspect defence and goalkeeping meant, the game’s not going to over until we score the third goal. And thankfully, we did score that thrid goal – get in, Juan Mata!
Last season, I had written a lot about the mentality of the team that went through the ‘bad moments’ and the need to bring in people who didn’t go through that phase so there’s a new thought, approach and mindset. That’s what we saw with Juan Mata and Lukaku. Both debutants played only for 20 mins but they brought such freshness to our play. And honestly, they even made the rest look better.
Seven points from the first three games of the season is a good return. Nine would have been better but honestly the way we are playing, we could be sitting at three or five points. Results-wise, decent start to the league. Performance-wise, we definitely need to improve. But I must say, having seen Mata and Lukaku, and with Romeu and Josh still to be used, we’re still after a couple of players – I fell quite confident about Chelsea’s immediate and long term future.
Juan Mata: What a cameo! Everytime the little man got the ball, he made a telling impact. He did something useful with the possession. You could see that Norwich didn’t know how to dispossess him. He was slipping through all the time. The cross that he delivered for Torres, the ball that he slipped for Lampard to cross, the ball to Anelka that led to the penalty, his constant skinning of the Norwich right back and finally the goal. He’s hard to mark, hard to track, he’s electric, skilful and hungry. He’s the real deal.
Romelu Lukaku: Played only for 20 minutes but he impressed me for certain reasons. One, he ran into the right spaces and channels. Two. he was asking for the ball to be played to him all the time. We didn’t give the ball to him everytime he was asking though. In a well-oiled team, you don’t need your striker to indicate that he wants the ball. It should happen seamlessly. We’ll get there.
Early goal: Is this Bosingwa v2? Boas comes with the reputation of getting the best out of his players, helping them fulfil their potential and on the pitch, making them more expressive. Is this the first instance of his style working at Chelsea. Bosingwa’s early goal was a cracker. It was poor defending from Norwich to leave someone like Bosingwa with so much space and time to launch that rocket. Bosingwa has scored a few scorchers like that and Norwich should have been smarter in closing him down. Anyway, it was a great strike. What this meant was that we could play a little more freely than usual. In the last couple of games, the first halves were a drab – boring, uninventive and uninspirational. At least, for me, the first half was watchable and that was because we had a goal under our belt.
Hilario’s saves: Suddenly, our defence has become so suspect that you kind of sense a goal everytime the opponents get the ball. It’s not meant to be that way. Our defence has started allowing too many chances too easily even for the weaker oppositions. In all this, Hilario did make some very important saves. Made some decent saves and overall he was quite focussed and held the ball to safety.
Ramires’ run: His run that earned the penalty was brilliant. I’ve always complained that our counterattacks lack pace and we take too much time that allows the opposition to get back into positions. Ramires has shown time and again what a fantastic runner with the ball he is. We need to use Ramires, not out of chance but out of choice in such counterattack circumstances, because he’s got the pace. I could see Ramires getting involved in more such counterattack opportunities.
Drogba’s injury: Didier will be discharged from the hospital, the official website says. Hope he will be fine soon. I feared for the worst when I saw his fall in slo-mo replays. I, just for a moment, imagined me falling flat like that from 6 feet, bloody scary. Always sickening to see a player, yours or not, being stretchered away with oxygen masks. Like I said, the man’s a warrior, he’ll be back.
Goal conceded: See I don’t expect Hilario to perform like Cech. Petr Cech is Petr Cech for a reason. When we have Hilario replacing Cech, there’s bound to be a drop in quality. And that also means the odd mistake here and there. The goal that we conceded was totally unwarranted. Hilario need not have come for the ball. The defence could have shouted at him to stay back. There could have been better understanding and communication between our goalie and the defenders. We’ve had such issues even with Cech on goal. With Hilario, we should have been a bit more aware.
Logic behind substitutions: Why is this becoming a tradition? Why can’t Torres play all 90 minutes? Drogba and Anelka will not be in Chelsea’s plans, Torres would be. We need to give more opportunities to our most expensive striker. I’m sure Torres wants to play all 90 mins. He would want to run against tired defences. When Mata came in, he started finding Torres. They could have clicked. Torres got a fantastic cross delivered from Mata which he connected well (somewhat similar to the goal he scored against Chelsea couple of seasons back). We might have finally found someone who can feed Torres but they played together only for 10 minutes.
Boas needs to rotate his players in midfield to accomodate the subs. It can’t always be Torres. I don’t see the logic in our midfield getting 270 minutes among them every single match, esp when we are leading or comfortable. Merely chopping and changing the frontline won’t always help. The root is in the midfield and that’s where we need changes. That’s where substitutions need to happen.
Midfield trio of Ramires-Mikel-Lampard: This trio doesn’t help us much. They are very good players in their own right but as a group, they don’t dictate the game. As a group, they don’t control the game. In fact, there’s hardly a mini-game among themselves as you might expect to see in midfield combinations. Our midfield is very static and is not creating opportunities for the forwards under normal circumstances.
Lampard: In Jan 2011, I wrote a post ‘Should Michael Essien be benched?‘. I wrote that after a lot of thought because I’m a big fan of Essien. But there was a time when it simply wasn’t working out and he had to be benched for the good of the team. Now, the question is again on the table, for another player that I love to bits. Frank Lampard is my model professional. He’s my favourite Chelsea footballer. He’s a club hero and legend. All these don’t make this question disappear – ‘Should Frank Lampard be benched?’.
Juan Mata. For his contribution in the last 30 minutes. He brought in some fresh energy and ideas into the team. He played that ball to Anelka, who in turn fed Ramires for the penalty. He scored that goal from the right with a lovely finish. More than anything, there’s some new found confidence with Mata on the pitch. Enough reasons to call him the man of the match on his premier league debut for Chelsea.
Much improved performance especially after the new boys came in. We looked better as a team when Mata and Lukaku were playing. They were moving all the time and wanting the ball. I think they made our other players look good even in that short period.
Let’s remember one thing. The fact that we played impressively in the last 20 minutes is not all down to the new boys. Norwich were playing with 10 men and a substitute goalkeeper for 20 minutes. That also was one important reason why we were able to impose ourselves well. I don’t want to take anything away from the win or the late surge in performance, I’m only trying to put things in perspective. 11 Chelsea men against 10 Norwich men in Stamford Bridge in the last 20 minutes, there’s only one winner.
I was disappointed not to see Romeu in action. As regards Josh, it’s a routine that I’ve got used to now. He’ll be on the bench. He won’t play much. After a year, we will ship him off to Hamburg and buy a 19-year old from Spain. I’ve kind of resigned to that possibility. At least, let’s see Romeu. At least for this purpose, I want Chelsea to go 4-0 up at half time, so Boas doesn’t need to sub his forwards like he does now. By the way, Franco di Santo (who was 19 when he joined us) scored a brilliant brace against QPR this weekend. If you haven’t seen those goals, do it now! I was super-excited when we signed him in 2008. Young Argentine with a typical latin american game, had intelligent movement and skill. We didn’t give him enough first team chances and we sent him off. I’m only saying that these young players should not be judged until they are given as much as chances as Kalou has got. I’m still surprised at the endless patience we seemed to have for Kalou while we are very demanding when it came/comes to other young players. Good thing though Boas is learning from his choices. Kalou wasn’t even on the bench.
Talking about new faces, from nowhere, Chelsea FC have signed a 20-year old striker from Chivas – Ulises Davila. Nobody had a sniff. Good job there! The boy’s regarded as a top talent – dribbler, poacher, finisher all rolled into one. Chivas have produced some real gems in the past. Hoping Ulises is their best yet.
Until recently we were buying established players in the late 20s and early 30s and youngsters in their teens. You could now see the shift happening where we are keen to sign players in and around the 20 years mark. This shows also the shift from our youth coaching abilities to youth scouting abilities. Anyway, the future looks bright and blue!