I suppose that a realistic and fair expectation when your team spends north of £60m on young attacking players, is that at some point in the future, you’ll get to witness some fast paced, exciting games, with some great football being played and with your team coming out on top. To see all this happening less than one week into the season must therefore be cause to get very excited indeed. Thanks in no small part to Reading, last night’s game was a fitting return home for the new European Champions. Not every aspect was impressive or even satisfactory – for entertainment value though you couldn’t ask for much more.
Firstly it has to said, on a night where some great team football was played, Eden Hazard comfortably outshone every other player on the field. People who suggested it might take time for the Belgian to adapt have been emphatically proven wrong. The pace and physicality of the division is obviously perfect for Hazard’s style – 5 assists in two games is better than a good start, it’s a fantastic achievement and yesterday was not a home debut to be forgotten. 73 out of 78 passes completed (94%) 38 out 41passes completed in the final third, 2 assists, 6 chances created and 1 penalty won, needless to say – MOTM for the second game running.
Hazard wasn’t the only one to impress however, for the opening 25 minutes the whole team looked so sharp and incisive on the ball – even Mikel made a few good forward dribbles. The movement of the front four and quick link up play was so good to watch. Probably the best bit of build up play was when we quickly switched the ball to the right flank to set away Ramires who easily beat the full back but then somehow failed to pick out Torres who was completely unmarked – not what you’d expect from the Player’s Player of the Year.
In fairness to Reading, considering they had none of the ball for 25 minutes, they didn’t need multiple chances to highlight the weaknesses in our defence. Pogrebnyak’s header was excellent, as was the cross, but for me the one-two played around Cole was too easy and Cahill should’ve been tighter on the Russian; Ivanovic was also beaten far too easily by Jobi McAnuff forcing Terry to bring him down for their second goal, and that fumble from Cech was just completely inexplicable and unprecedented – but we like him and he’s probably sorry so we’ll let him off.
Something else that was good to see early in the 2nd half was Di Matteo quickly make some attacking changes bringing on Oscar and Daniel Sturridge and taking Mikel off. Sturridge in particular managed to make a real difference, playing some great passes and adding some much needed width, if only he’d warm to the RWF position he could be such a big player for us. I suppose it was slightly typical that when we had Torres, Sturridge, Mata, Oscar and Hazard all on the pitch together – it was the centre half that equalised. It was another goalkeeping blunder though, Cahill’s shot was hit hard and swerved but really shouldn’t have gone in.
With 10mins to go and with Chelsea still chasing hard, we came up with the best piece of football of the night. Four quick, first time passes in the final third from Mata to Hazard to Torres and back to Mata, the Spaniard then picked out Ashley Cole, who showed phenomenal composure and talent to pick out Torres for the tap in. Yes, the goal was offside. It’s a shame that such a good game had to be decided by a refereeing mistake but that certainly isn’t worth getting hung up over. It seems not long ago, anyone of us would’ve done anything for Torres to get a scrappy offside goal. The only important thing is that he’s off the mark.
Although, it should be said it wasn’t a great performance from Torres. He did some good things with the ball at his feet but overall wasn’t sharp enough or quick enough to pick up the right positions in attack. Does anyone else find it slightly ironic that Torres might need some time to adapt, playing behind the creative forward players that were bought in primarily to help him score goals?
The game ended frantically when Adam Federici came up for the Reading corner and stayed up after it was recycled; the ball eventually was played out to Eden Hazard though who ran a half length of the pitch to unselfishly square it to Ivanovic, so the big Serbian could score his 5th goal in 8 Premier League matches- an incredible stat, considering Robin Van Persie only has 4 in his last 8!
There’s no escaping the fact that ultimately, there was a worrying looseness to Chelsea’s defending yesterday. The team will know we can’t base a serious challenge for the league on defensive form like that. We need the backline to replicate the ruthlessness and solidarity that carried us to success last term. At this stage I wouldn’t call it a cause for concern but it’s definitely a glaring weakness in the team and one that will exposed even more so by Newcastle’s forwards on Saturday if we aren’t careful.
What I love about the position we’re in at the minute however is that with almost no outside expectation of domestic success this season, we can pretty much just sweep any concerns and mistakes under the rug/dismiss them as teething problems as we adjust to a new style. And of course as long as we’re picking up points, we can just sit back and enjoy all the fast paced trickery and passing moves. 72% possession, 27 shots and 22 chances created. These aren’t numbers Chelsea fans usually get to enjoy, so all of you, make sure you enjoy them.