At some point this season, there’s no doubt that the size of our squad is going to hurt us. The decision to loan out so many of our young players, as well as letting go of both Michael Essien and Raul Meireles without signing replacements, has left us looking pretty thin, especially in midfield. With the Club World Cup to participate in around the already hectic Christmas period, fans will undoubtedly start asking themselves if a 23 man squad that includes Paulo Ferreira, Lucas Piazon and two very mediocre reserve keepers, could possibly be enough.
Last night however proved to be an occasion where having a small squad with only a few retained first team youngsters, turned out to be a big advantage. Last season, fielding almost an entire B team, our league cup performances were poor. But this time around the likes of Azpilicueta and Piazon and Moses were given the opportunity to start alongside some established senior players and as a result, fans were given a much clearer picture of how good they can be.
Typically of all our good performances so far, we made a very quick start. 3 minutes in, Gary Cahill climbed above (and seemingly fouled) a Wolves defender on the far post to head in a Juan Mata free kick, though the goal was allowed to stand. 4 minutes later Lucas Piazon did brilliantly to keep the ball in play and then square it back to Ryan Bertrand who drilled in a high shot from the edge of the area. Our best goal then came in the 17th minute as Mata played a brilliant 1-2 with Ramires before playing an even better one with Torres before finishing expertly on the half-volley.
We made a similar start to the second half as substitute Marko Marin fed through Victor Moses who (I’ll be honest) won a soft penalty from the Wolves keeper which Oriol Romeu scored on his 21st birthday. Fernando Torres then scored his 4th of the season, heading in a Juan Mata corner, before Victor Moses completed the 6-0 rout heading in a perfectly chipped cross from Oscar.
It isn’t uncommon to for big name players to give indifferent and apathetic performances in the league cup, especially in the early rounds. But from what I can tell from highlights and match reports Mata’s attitude and performance last night was exceptional, working hard to support all the young players around him, and frequently coming up with that little bit of magic, as he so often did last season. Assuming Chelsea can successfully make this transition into an attractive passing side, I predict in 10 years time we’ll look back on Juan Mata with Zola-esque affection, as that little genius who kick-started our transformation into an exciting and beautiful team to watch.
Whilst he was being linked to the club, a lot of concerns were being expressed that we were just signing a younger version of Jose Bosingwa. By the sounds of things, it seems like those fears can be forgotten, as the Spaniard looked bright on debut going forward, and did what little defensive work he had to without any problems. For now however, until the opportunity comes along for Azpi to prove himself in a big game, he will most likely remain only cover for Branislav Ivanovic, rather than actual competition for his starting place.
For me, Piazon is a difficult talent to gauge. For Brazilian players to come over to a top European side at such a young age is very rare. I’ve read that a lot of top football scouts in Brazil were disappointed with the development of Piazon at Sao Paulo after he looked so promising at U-15 level. To be fair to him though, he couldn’t have done much more at Chelsea so far. Youth Team Player of the Year in his first full season and last night he didn’t seem to look out of place at all. For me there isn’t any pressure on Piazon to start pushing for a first team place, given how young he still is. To be honest I really don’t know what to hope for in terms of how good he can be. If he’s anywhere near as good as Oscar in two years time however, he may well yet have a long term future with us.
Marko Marin and Victor Moses:
I’m sure that a lot of fans, like me, will have spent the last month or so fantasising about Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar all playing together. In my head it was a beautiful thing to watch, in reality however, it may have its issues. Against Stoke the three of them struggled to find a balance in terms of providing width to the attacks and because of how similar their roles are, we may have to quickly accept that it’s a balance they’ll never be able to find. Victor Moses may not be as talented as any of them but he’s made an extremely positive impact in his first two PL matches. One presumes a fully fit Marko Marin would’ve made a similar impact.
In order to get the most out of all our attacking options it seems Di Matteo may have to adopt a rotation policy where he picks two of Oscar, Hazard and Mata every game, along with one of Victor Moses and Marko Marin.
For me though, choosing which of those three players to leave out (especially in big games) would be a torturous process – almost impossible. I’m very interested what consensus is among BlueChampions readers with this situation. If you have time, leave a comment answering this question: In a crucial game, if hypothetically you could only select two of Hazard, Oscar and Mata, which one would you leave out and why?
Just a quick word to finish on the big story this week regarding our captain, John Terry has retired from international football, after claiming the FA had made his position untenable by continuing to press charges that he’d already been cleared of in a court of law. In my opinion, this is a good decision made in a very sad situation. The contributions that John made to the English National Team in terms of leadership and defensive quality were never fully appreciated; the fact that he continually provided these contributions in spite of receiving never-ending abuse and denigration from the British Media was a true testament to the sort of person he is.
One piece of criticism from an extremely experienced and revered journalist called James Lawton has always stuck with me in particular. He claimed in his column in The Independent that the sight of John Terry lifting the Champions League Trophy after having been suspended from the game made “his skin crawl”. And then this week, after his retirement was announced, Lawton claimed Terry has simply “been given his due” and leaves the team “as an ultimate example of football’s capacity not only to injure itself but cast serious doubt over its ability to reclaim a good name”.
In my opinion, that a professional writer could so happily and easily show such contempt for a professional that has willingly given and achieved so much for his club and country, well, it makes my skin crawl. The fact that millions of ignorant people will agree with him just makes me sad.