The advantages that come from having centre halves who are as gifted all-round footballers as we have are obvious and numerous. The fact they are all such potent goal threats is another great bonus that we don’t fail to appreciate. However, watching us try and fail to break down the Swansea defence for 90 minutes this week, one couldn’t help but become more and more annoyed at how much possession our back 4 were getting in the opposition half. As attacking assets they aren’t to be undervalued but, last Wednesday at least, we were relying on them and their ball skills far far too much, to help create any sort of decent opportunity.
In some ways it is good to watch – a fluid attacking system where everybody gets forward is exciting and of course is entertaining when it works. There comes a point though after about an hour of watching Eden Hazard trying to play forward through balls to David Luiz, and of seeing Oscar come deep and wide to work the overlap with Azpilicueta, where you feel the piss is really being taken somewhat.
We’ve spent £80million on 3 of the best young midfielders on the planet, so why against a mid-table team at home in the League Cup are we giving them absolutely no room to work with at all? The situation with Ramires is similar. The Brazilian who was in L’Eqipe’s 2012 Team of the Year (and probably should’ve been our Player of the Year as well) is undeniably one of the best and most direct dribblers in the world, so why was he spending the entire game holding a deep position and covering for our backline?
With Mikel unavailable now, Romeu injured and Lampard not fit enough to start every game, using David Luiz in midfield I think we all regard as necessary experimentation. I haven’t been especially impressed. His skills on the ball are impressive (definitely better than your average defender), but I think they’re also overhyped, and also not as good as Cahill’s. Ivanovic comparatively is really quite poor with the ball at his feet.
Against Stoke tomorrow we know that we’re going to see a team set up very similar to Swansea. They have the best defensive record in the division, one of the best goalkeepers in the division and our still the only Premier League team unbeaten at home. It’s obviously going to be difficult, as it was last year at the Britannia.
Here is a list of things I want to see us do differently than we did against Swansea:
- Play David Luiz at centre half (where he belongs) with Gary Cahill and make sure they stay in our half, except for corners, obviously.
- For a change, how about the full backs and defensive midfielders try and make room for playmakers, instead of the other way around?
- And does it even have to be said? – play Demba Ba instead of Fernando Torres.
This is the XI I’d want Rafa to select: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Oscar, Hazard and Ba. Once you’ve moved Luiz back into defence and Ivanovic consequently to right back, the rest of the team picks itself. The only other decision to make is who plays at centre forward? If Benitez has ever had a more easy decision to make in his entire career then I’d love to know what it was.
The Senegalese, whose country mercifully haven’t qualified for the AFCON, scored twice on debut against Southampton and had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside against Swansea this week. Against Stoke he is plainly the more logical option. He is stronger and quicker than Torres, he is more in-form and Torres (having started all 20 PL games this season) is in desperate need of a rest.
It’s hard to predict a Chelsea win for tomorrow after seeing two such abject attacking performances within such a short space of time, we evidently have some problems. If Ba can score however in a Chelsea win for tomorrow, he will immediately become the new first choice #9. Surely if you asked any Chelsea fan however, they’d tell you that he already is.