Given the circumstances, an away draw yesterday with a clean sheet wasn’t the worst result. Still, the issues with our performance and the fact they were all so easily avoidable left quite a bitter taste. Some weird decisions were made in my opinion regarding the Starting XI and substitutions. I have no defence for Roberto Di Matteo – the bloke got it wrong.
I had no issues the backline; I prefer Luiz to Cahill, Ivanovic to Azpilicueta and was in favour of starting Terry and Cole even if not 100% fit. The decision to start Frank Lampard in midfield though was the first poor one. I’m still backing him to make a sizeable and helpful contribution to the club this season but at the minute, there’s no avoiding the fact he’s playing badly and has been solidly ineffective so far. His passing was all over the place yesterday. One moment stood out right at the end where he had an opportunity to play in Eden Hazard but over hit the through ball massively. Again – just a really disappointing performance. Mikel was OK; he showed some fantastic close control in the first half to keep possession in difficult situations. He ruined his game though with one terrible back pass to Cech which could’ve easily cost us the game.
The really bad decisions though were made in attack where Ramires and Ryan Bertrand were selected out of position yet again. Ramires has so much to offer this team, with his pace, his stamina and work ethic he could control games against the likes of QPR so easily from a deep position – he’s yet to impress so far however. I wonder how long he’ll have to fail to impress before the technical staff realise he’s never going to, if started on the right flank? As for Ryan Bertrand, one positive to draw is Chelsea are yet to concede in a game where he’s started in midfield. For him to be continually selected after the money we’ve spent on attackers though, he needs to start offering a lot more creativity, or he needs to stop being picked, one of the two.
Overall the system was needlessly defensive and it left Eden Hazard as the sole creative outlet behind Fernando Torres, who I’m not sure even touched the ball 10 times. Despite it offering nothing however, we left the set up as it was until Victor Moses was bought on (to debut) after 60 minutes to replace Bertrand. He made no difference. He looked lively and eager to take defenders on but had little influence playing on the right wing. Hazard moved out left and Ramires dropped back so, ultimately, we were left playing the tiresome, unimaginative, long ball 4-3-3 that continually failed last season. Sturridge coming on for Torres was a smart decision – leaving it till the 80th minute to make the change wasn’t. Most infuriatingly of all though, Oscar wasn’t even asked to warm up at any point. In a tight game that’s heading towards a 0-0, a committee of football brains asked to design the perfect player to come on and make an impact, would come up with Oscar. His omission baffled me completely.
Overall, I’d say we got what we deserved. Although, we were denied two clear penalties; Ryan Nelson pulling back John Terry as he ran to meet a cross and Shaun Wright-Phillips obstructing Eden Hazard after the Belgian had rounded him easily. The referee made some poor decisions to our detriment, making sure Di Matteo wasn’t the only one.
Regarding the pre-match handshakes – I don’t particularly want to write much. We did our bit. If Ferdinand doesn’t want to shake Terry’s or Cole’s hand, what the hell can you do? You certainly can’t force him. Whatever.
Conclusion: Every manager makes mistakes; the good ones just don’t make them over and over again. We’re still top, still looking OK-ish – I’m not prepared to get frustrated with RDM or any player just yet. If Lampard starts, Ramires is played wide and Oscar if left out again against Juventus on Wednesday however, I won’t be happy. For me they wouldn’t be debatable decisions, understandable either way. They’d just be mistakes that have made before and we need to avoid making again.