The football world was watching. The £32m future superstar. The £24m young Brazilian No.10. The £50m striker with a new attacking talents around him. A younger, pacier and more aggressive version of Chelsea and the impact of the same on their playing style. And a manager who still hasn’t won the vote of confidence despite having win two major trophies in 11 weeks. And, in my opinion, we need not have matched their expectations.
In a way, I didn’t want us to win big. I didn’t want a 5-0 or 6-0 which is not only not sustainable but also allows too much hype and false sense of superiority and security early in the season. But I wanted a decent win that gets us three points without putting us too much in the limelight. And guess what we got!
In many ways, this was the perfect result. Scored a couple of goals and got a cleansheet but no one’s under any cloud of what and where Chelsea need to improve. While we’ve won the game against a tricky opposition in their ground, we are also so very grounded as we know there are areas to improve.
When you bring in a few new and young players and look to change the formation and style, it does take a few months to settle in. And you don’t want to give an impression to the world that you’re ready when you really are not. Pundits still think that the league title is a battle of Manchester while Chelsea will be also-rans. And this win shouldn’t have changed their minds.
Bertrand at LAM again: Why would Bertrand start? Wasn’t quite clear what was his role supposed to be. He was pacy all right but his touch and approach was so out of place with Mata and Hazard. We were always expecting the three attacking midfielders to swap positions and interchange and all that. That simply didn’t happen enough and it’s not gonna happen with Bertrand there. I think that position that Bertrand occupied was a specialist position and I’d not put Bertrand except when I want him to defend that left flank. His starting did have an impact on how much Moses could do. But the question is if that’s worth it. Could have started with Sturridge instead.
Eden Hazard: What a debut! Wins the MOTM on his premier league debut. One great turn to beat a player and a beautifully weighted pass for Ivanovic to slot home the opening goal with a majestic near post finish. He is always going to be most fouled player. One such foul had to happen inside the box. He is so quick and nimble, defenders don’t want to take a risk of leaving him with the ball. Two goals created in seven minutes of premier league football. He’s got a lot to offer. I can’t wait to see him on Wednesday night.
Midfield battle: If there’s one, we are losing it. We’ve seen it a few times in the pre-season. We saw it against Man City and now against Wigan. With 4-2-3-1 and the changes to the line-up, we are midfielder short in the middle and it shows when we can’t keep the ball. And we can’t keep the ball. Neither Mikel nor Lampard was able to dictate the tempo or the flow of the game. They were good at stifling the attacking moves by Wigan but when we had the ball there was hardly any imagination in making use of the four attacking players ahead of them. Too much space and distance between the midfielders and the four attacking players and not enough imagination and passing range from Lampard or Mikel to connect to those four attacking players. Only about 20% of the passes by Lampard/Mikel were forward passes. Only one of Mikel’s passes made it to the final third of the pitch. This need not be ten but this shouldn’t be one either. This needs to change otherwise this could be costly.
Brazil’s No.10: The moment I was waiting for did come about in the second half. Oscar playing for Chelsea in the premier league! And boy, wasn’t he comfortable! This was clearly a game to get a bit accustomed. He didn’t have to try too hard. He did show some glimpses of what we should expect from him. One burst of pace and a shot from outside the box that threw me out of my chair. One clever backheel which our players should start expecting from the likes of Oscar, Hazard, Mata and Marin. Super-excited for him. Expecting him to start in the mid-week.
Errors, gaffes and fluffs: All over the pitch. On the whole, it was a decent performance but sadly each and every player seemed to have one moment of error – Petr Cech had a howler by rolling the ball straight to a Wigan player, David Luiz and his unconventional thought process towards defending, Ashley Cole trying for an Ole moment at the edge of the box with two Wigan players close to him, Lampard passing to the opponent, Mikel losing his positional awareness etc. I know this is the first premier league game but this rustiness should be addressed. On another day, we could have got punished for these. I’m sure we would get better by the day.
Service to Torres: I was really hoping that he scored. It’s sad that he still did not get the service I was expecting him to get in this new set up. And that’s what is gonna take some time. Yesterday, Wigan defended very well in the centre and everytime we got the ball we went for a decisive dribble or pass without setting up an attack that could end with a Torres finish. We were a bit too hasty but that paid off in the first 10 minutes. Torres still nearly scored with an excellent touch but he wasn’t in the game as much as I wanted. This will surely improve.
Victor ‘See you in London’ Moses: He’s got skill. It wasn’t easy dealing with him. He’s got pace, he’s got trickery, he’s only 21 and could cost £8-10m. He can be a great option in the bench. Chelsea fans were already singing ‘Moses! We will see you next week!’. Let’s see.
Transfers: Daniel Levy is reported to have offered Modric to Chelsea for 40m euros. See I’m his biggest fan (Modric’s, not Levy’s) and I’d love to see him at Chelsea. He could come expensive but I also hear that this could involve an exchange of Meireles and/or Sturridge. I don’t agree that Modric doesn’t have a place in our long list of midfielders. Modric is unique and we don’t have a player in his mould. He’s an orchestrator from the halfway line. He controls the tempo of the game like no one in Chelsea now. If he were to be one of the two midfielders behind the four attacking players, that would be brilliant. Also, some say Moses and Azpilicueta would be Chelsea players by this weekend. I’ve heard this a few times.
FINALLY . . .
Match day one in premier league. A 2-0 win at the DW stadium cannot be anything other than a brilliant outcome whatever perspective you look at it. Wigan is not the team or place that you want to start you want to start your league season with.
When you have a bad season, what happens is that all your rivals lose points on Saturday only for you to follow suit on Sunday. We’ve seen that happen too often with Chelsea in the last couple of seasons. With Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs dropping points on Saturday, Chelsea not winning on Sunday would have been so disappointing. But then, part of me also thinks that we should no longer be worrying about the results of Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and Newcastle. Last season was an aberration. We do belong to the league of the Man Utd and Man City and those are the results that should matter to us. You think I’m cocky?