Summary – Draw. Points dropped. Couldn’t even score. On a weekend when the Manchester clubs play the North London clubs, the last thing you want to do is to drop points and we did just that. As pundits say whether it’s a point won or two points lost will be known on Sunday. Well, if you’re looking to win the title, any draw is points lost. Since we have lowered our sights to the likes for Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool, we could even draw a positive out of a draw with Norwich. Even if we see Manchester beating North London on Sunday, it still means we missed out on an opportunity to extend the gap.
This game also had a unique record of no fouls committed by either teams in the whole of first half. Not even one foul. That’s like FIFA 12. While this can be seen as a positive thing by some, I’d rather have some fouls committed by Chelsea and play in a way that would have the opposition commit some fouls. The way I see it, fouls are a result of an intent. If you make a number of successful tackles and commit no fouls, that I’m happy about. Lack of intent towards closing down and tackles can also result in fewer number of fouls. What’s special about this first half is that there were a number of successful tackles but either teams and still there were no fouls. Good show.
What went wrong? Same old probing with half decent efforts and bad finishing. Can’t help but think we should be creating lot more chances than we are managing to do now. We started with a 4-3-3 with Sturridge and Mata on either sides of Torres. I’m still of the opinion that we should play 4-2-3-1 and keep Sturridge on the bench and bring him on in the second half. 4-2-3-1 will allow Mata to move to the centre and have more of the ball. I know Sturridge deserves to start but he does tilt the balance of the starting eleven and hence we don’t get the best out of our starting eleven.
Not just that. We have actually no impact players that can come in the second half and make . . . well . . . an impact. Yesterday, we had Lukaku coming in and showing glimpses of his talent. That was heartening because since his promising debut all that we had seen of him till then was his lumbering around with poor movement. With more time on the pitch, he must start showing why he’s considered as a talent by many top teams. Sturridge and Lukaku can be players that can have an impact in the second half. Both are pacy and both could beat tired defenders in the second half.
Going back to my point on creating chances. Though by numbers we outplayed Norwich in terms of possession, passes, shots etc, I think we failed to create enough number of clear cut chances. Yes the finishing could have been better. There are games where, if you hadn’t scored, you’d say ‘we should have killed the game in the first half’ and that’s because of the clear cut chances we create. I don’t think we are creating enough. See strikers have this conversion ratio. They’re are not going to convert every chance. But the team needs to create enough chances that we get a goal at any conversion rate. To not score against Norwich is downright poor.
In the absence of touchline hugging orthodox wingers, we are still dependent on the full backs to give us width. And you know what, thanks to our full backs, there were 4 successful crosses yesterday. That’s right. Only 4 successful crosses over 90 minutes against Norwich. Not over yet. That’s 4 successful crosses out of 39 crosses made. Doesn’t it occur to you that the success rate on crosses is terribly low? Meanwhile, even Norwich managed 4 successful crosses but needed only 16 of them to get this.
Here are our crossing stats in the last few matches (successful crosses / total number of crosses)
It’s quite obvious that our cross success rate (crosses received by a Chelsea player) is better when Drogba starts and is in the mood. The games that Torres plays the crossing rates do fall. Torres wants the ball at his feet and he’s that kind of player. And our crossing has been poor for seasons now. Why would we play in such a way that we cross 39 times while Torres has started the game.
And this is why I don’t like us to play 4-3-3 when Torres starts. If we had played 4-2-3-1, we wouldn’t be delivering so many crosses and with three attacking midfielders we’d be passing to Torres’ feet more often.
Mata has been our best player of the season and when he doesn’t get things right we look really awful. Yesterday was not one of his best days. Had poor touch, made poorly weighted passes, missed scoring chances and missed to create great opportunities. I’ve been saying this for some time now. He needs a partner in the midfield. He needs a player who has the first touch, both feet abilities and the vision like him. That’s where a Modric would have done wonders. Or Josh.
Josh made his debut for Swansea yesterday. Came in at centre midfield. Played 25 minutes. Made 25 passes with a 96% success ratio. Remember he is not eligible to play against us next week. That’s a pity. We would value such players better as an opponent than as our own player.
AVB has made a number of changes back and forth in the formation, line-up etc. But he still needs to settle down with his plan A and plan B. In the initial few weeks, you could see Chelsea looking to play differently but now there seems to be a resignation to reality. With so much pressure from inside and outside, the results are taking priority and there’s definitely some anxiety and that’s quite visible. Chelsea are not playing confidently. Every goal results in a relief rather than a celebration. AVB’s style is meant to release the players from the invisible cage and let them play free and take their own decisions on the pitch. I haven’t seen that in action yet. January is not over. Couple of players could be coming in.
Good decision by AVB to not play Gary Cahill in this match. Allows Cahill to train with his new team mates and settle down before making the debut. The last thing that could have happened for him was starting against Norwich and making a howler. The media would have started asking if he’s of Chelsea quality and all that. Torres must be thinking – ‘if only I had done the same thing for my debut’. Compare this with Torres situation. Highly expensive and high drama switch from Liverpool and happens to play against Liverpool on his debut for Chelsea. Had he scored that night, he could have been a different player. That’s how much confidence impacts players.
Okay, this was a month where we just shouldn’t have dropped points but we have. We need to beat Swansea next week. Just no excuses. If the North London clubs were to lose today, there’s a small consolation and damage control. So far, it’s Manchester 13-3 North London. This is indeed a Super Sunday. No matter what happens, I’d be happy. There’s no such thing called a best result today. Oh yes, there is – if all four of them manage to lose. See you later!