Good performance. Good result. This is how improvement looks like. We are still not Boas’ finished product yet. I don’t think we are playing the way he wants us to. But make no mistake, we’re making giant strides towards that. Our performance today just only showed what we can expect from this Chelsea. Compare this to the last three games. We have improved very well. There still are a few things to be solved but I’m prepared to wait.
Though we had a number of attacking manoeuvres, the goals did come off from a cross and a through-lob. One smart strike from JT and a cheeky finish from Sturridge saw through. The stoppage time goal was a bummer. It somewhat spoiled the mood but then let’s enjoy our third consecutive win. I still had my customary gripes about the line-up and the subs but with Andre’s Chelsea in transition, I’m happy for the performance and the win.
Juan Mata: Worth his weight in diamonds? The man’s uncatchable and unstoppable. Unless he makes those rare mistakes himself, he pretty much does whatever he wants. I thought he marshalled our attacking play. If Mata wasn’t there, I don’t think our performance would have been half as good as it was.
Purpose and intent: We seemed to know what to do with the ball. And the whole team seemed to be in sync on how to move the ball and at what tempo. Every time we had the possession, we created some good attacking plays. It seemed we had 10 attack-minded outfield players in Chelsea. I could see Boas’ ideas slowly being displayed on the pitch. He’s certainly trying to experiment a few things. I could see a transformation in progress. I’m sure when this improves further it’s gonna look bloody good.
Raul Meireles: Probably the unsung hero of today’s match. He had a big role in how well we controlled the midfield and the game. I said ahead of the match that Meireles could make Lampard look better. I think that did happen. Lampard was decent in the first half and because Meireles did much more than what a Mikel would do in that position. And his pass for Studge was lovely. I’m sure he will relegate Mikel to the bench, if he’s not already.
Andre Villas Boas: The Boas continues to impress. Gave starts to Meireles and Mata. Brought Sturridge straight into the starting line up. Gave some minutes to Romeu. As I had said before, I like his dugout presence. He was impatient, restless and easily excitable. The referee had to remind him every now and then that he was stepping out of his technical area. Once he might have almost taken a throw-in as he saw making a run. I like such passionate managers who openly display their passion.
Petr Cech’ return: What a sight to see the big man in goal! His return is very well timed. With our first champions league group match and the trip to Old Trafford coming up, the one player we must have in our starting line-up is Petr Cech. Glad that he’s back.
Anelka instead of Torres: Why would Anelka start? On what merit or logic? He’s got pace but doesn’t use it often or doesn’t use it to his advantage. On a day when we were playing some good high tempo football, I thought he was the weak link. He didn’t do badly or something but I’d rather have Torres take that spot than a less effective Anelka. We are only piling more pressure by not playing Torres. The only solution to the Torres situation is playing him and supporting him.
Substitutions: With what I’ve seen in the last 4 premier league games, I can tell you that I’m not a fan of Andre’s substitutions. I always seem to have a problem with not only who’s coming in but also who’s going out. The last thing I wanted to see was Mata being swapped for Torres. And it did happen. Why is Torres always getting to play with Malouda? They just don’t work together. I was looking forward to see Torres play alongside Mata and I’m sure even Nando would have.
Malouda: let me be honest here – I’ve always liked Malouda. He can be either selfish/stupid or confident/poor judge depending which side of the fence you are. But I strongly feel that his style of game is not really suitable for the kind of football Boas might want to play. We had only 5 shots on target but we had some good quality possession that allowed us to totally control the game. Now I don’t see Malouda contributing to this style of play. He’s more direct and bang-bang. Boas should use him less and less.
Last 20 mins: We shut shop after the 70th minute and we paid the price too. May be it’s got to do with Mata and Danny getting subbed out or may be it had to do with our tactics. Had we gone for more goals, we’d have got them. The last 20 mins we played like how we played against Stoke City. It was even a bit scary.
Disappearing defence: What’s wrong with them? I feel so uncomfortable with our defence these days. Is this a side-effect of our attacking playing style under Boas? Our defence doesn’t seem to have the ‘safety first’ approach as all they want to do is to win the possession so they can unleash the midfielders as soon as possible. It’s gonna take three or four clean sheets in a row for me to feel a bit better about defence.
Juan Mata. Again. Real live wire. It’s been a long a time since I saw such a busy Chelsea player. He’s everywhere. He’s a menace for the opposition. Bulk of the credit for our decent showing should go to Mata. With his pace and movement, I think he also forced his team mates to keep up with him a little bit. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he’s the fulcrum of our attacks now and is certainly a player that can influence the game and inspire his fellow players. Honourable mentions in this paragraph would be Meireles and Ramires.
Boas’ Chelsea Is still under construction. You can see that Boas is still experimenting. I think Boas would still need until late October to fully settle down with this squad. But he needs to continue winning while the work is going on. The fixtures have been a bit kind to us. Our first four premier league opponents turned out to be beatable teams. And next Sunday, Boas faces his first big test at Old Trafford. Before that, we also have a mid-week champions league match against Leverkusen.
Tis mid-week match could be a blessing in disguise for us. I think it’s good that we get to play one more match ahead of the Old Trafford match. Some more minutes for Mata, Meireles and Lukaku is most welcome ahead. We need a very strong and confident team to play at Old Trafford. Man Utd are flying high at the moment. And it takes a very special effort to beat them at Old Trafford. The performance against Leverkusen in the mid-week will tell me what to expect at Old Trafford next Sunday.
I’m not worried or concerned. We’ve made a slow start to the premier league like Man Utd normally does. I never expected Chelsea to peak early this season like Man Utd or Man City have. We will progress quietly. We will consolidate. And when it matters we will peak. For now, I’m a happy and confident Chelsea fan!