Two key things had to happen this weekend. Arsenal dropping points and Chelsea getting three points. That’s all I wanted. Had made up my mind not to care about how these two things happen. So I can’t really complain now.
With the day starting with the Man City vs Arsenal game, we had the opportunity of fully knowing the impact of a positive result at Stamford Bridge would have. As that game as at Etihad, it was almost inevitable that Man City would win. I was hoping a morale thrashing, humiliating defeat for Arsenal that would scare the a bit. Well it’s fair to say I got what I was looking for.
Still Chelsea had to do their part. Playing Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, you’d be forgiven to think that we will have a relatively easy game with a decent margin. This game was anything but easy.
If you go by the statistics or even by the performance on the pitch, you’d think that we were totally in control if the game. The possession, the chances created, the saves – we domination was quite clear. If you’ve been following the Chelsea games this season, you’d know this ‘domination’ accounts for nothing if you concede cheap avoidable goal out of the only shot on target the only attack from one if the blunders by us or by the referee. And do that again.
Palace had their few chances. There were set piece situations from where we have been conceding this season but not today. There were goal mouth scrambles that we have been letting in goal this season by again not today. There was even a uncalled foul near the managers’ dug out (a hall mark of this season) which could have created an attack for Palace and might have given them a goal. Surprisingly, that didn’t harm us either.
That’s not to say we defended very well. The same way it’s hard to explain the goals that we have been conceding, it’s also hard to explain how we didn’t concede today. Well, apart from the gift that we gave away. Our shooting hasn’t been great unless it’s our feet that we’re shooting at.
As the game started, I had a very bad feeling on how the game was progressing. We were probing all the time without really testing their defence leave alone the goalkeeper. For all the one touch short passing football we were playing, our lead came from a long shot that was spilled by keeper which was tapped in by Torres.
As soon as we took the lead I knew we were going to concede in the first half. Undoubtedly. It’s like someone’s done a voodoo thingy on Chelsea FC. I just ‘knew’ we would concede. And we did. We had the ball and I was looking to see a counterattack develop. Before I could realise we lost the ball and saw Palace players surging in. We could have held the fort calmly. But there’s no calm in the defence with Luiz, is there? Luiz opted to pounce on the ball carrier well in the front of the D. When that tackle failed, I saw a huge space created in the box where the ball was played for the goal. We’ve been using a lot of adjectives to describe our defence this season. I’ll use a pronoun – Chamakh.
Chelsea regained the lead shortly thanks some smart work from Hazard. What a season he’s been having. And Ramires to finish the way he did, lovely. I think Ramires wants to score only those kind if goals that straight away make it to this YouTube collections.
Ramires always possesses a goal threat. And the threat he carries is much more than any of our midfielders, including Lampard. Whether he creates the goals or scores the goals depends on his midfield partner. This is one reason why Lampard-Ramires just doesn’t click.
We’ve got the win that we wanted. Now we are only two points off Arsenal who we would next Monday at Emirates. We are winning though we aren’t particularly playing well. While he cliche goes that this is champions material, my concern is that we are becoming so beatable and drawable. Any team, no matter where they are in the league table, can come to Stamford Bridge with a hope getting a point or three. They have started to believe this because they think Chelsea is not as invincible at Stamford Bridge as they once were.
We aren’t bull dozing our opponents. We aren’t converting our attacking dominance into goals. We always seem to keep our opponents in the game until the final whistle. Even worse, we are one defensive set piece away from conceding a goal.
Our composure in front of the goal has cost us too much this season. There are some players whose job description includes composure in front of the goal. That’s the reason why those type of players are assigned with the responsibility of scoring the goals for us. Ahead of today’s game, I happened to see this piece is stats that says the top 5 goal scorers for Chelsea in this league season includes John Terry but does not include Torres, Eto’o or Ba. That’s right. None of our strikers in the top 5 of the Chelsea goal scorers list. And barring the game at Old Trafford, we’ve always played a striker. Even all three strikers out together would still only be third in our goal scorers list.
This is a Chelsea thing I know. The strikers’ goal to total goals ratio has always been low at Chelsea as we have goal scorers all over the pitch. But this has not been helping us. Even if you look at the last few seasons, while the likes of Mata have been raking in the goals, we still finished lower in the table than where we should. Normally the conversion ratio of the strikers should be better than that of the other players. So they score when they get a chance and thereby solidify our position and make it difficult for the opponents to get a grip on the game. Whereas our midfielders and wide players get involved in so many and attacks and score few goals thereby keeping the opponents in the game and most importantly keeping their confidence and hopes alive.
The problem for us quite clearly is our strikers don’t do what strikers are expected to do. Their conversion ration seems to be poorer than that of the wide players and midfielders. They just happen to be players that make the dummy runs to pull players away for other players to score. Once in a while that’s fine but that’s not their bread and butter.
So it doesn’t surprise me to see Chelsea being rumoured with Falcao. While we discuss so much about whether we have a title-winning defence, we also need to ask ourselves if we have a title-winning strike force. It’s a miracle if we win the title with only have Torres, Eto’o and Ba. None of them particularly strike fear in the minds of the opposition defences. If they have been taking their chances as they should, our defence would certainly start to look better. Attack is the best of form of defence. And we waste our attacks, we put our defence under so much pressure and every defensive mishap turns into a disaster and we are made to pay for those.
For all my moaning and groaning, we are in a great position. We are just a win away from going to the top of the league. Most teams could kill to be in our situation. So let’s not lose that perspective. If Chelsea were to beat Arsenal and not lose against Liverpool, and win the other winnables this month, I’d be quite happy.
As Jose said, topping the table by Christmas or new year doesn’t mean much but if Chelsea does top the table that sends out a message that we are in this title race and no team is running away with handsome leads. As most might agree, at this juncture, I feel more comfortable playing an Arsenal than an Aston Villa. I’m sure Chelsea will play to win and will play more confidently than they would against lesser opposition.
We have a league cup tie against Sunderland on Wednesday night but the real show is next Monday. The #1 vs #2 in any sport will be a mouthwatering affair and this shouldn’t be any different. At the end of that nasty November, if you had told me that we would go into the Emirates game needing a win to top the table, I’d have happily taken that. Happy to be where we are. Now comes the test of character for this Chelsea team. Something tells me they will pass the test. And when we get to the top, we refuse to come down. Hoping to see that Chelsea!