Was it really only six days? Six days which have included Foygate, defeat at Loftus Road, a win but at a stretch and with another red card, the CPO vote and home defeat to Arsenal. I don’t know about you but I don’t know how many six day periods like that one I can take!
Time to hit the pause button, time to analyse where we are, what we’ve got and what we lack.
Obviously we are not on the FA’s favourite’s list. Foygate was shocking as was the FA’s failure to investigate and the media’s total disinterest in exploring why not. Although today’s ref was better (he had to be), questions still need asking, not least how Szczesny’s foul with the scores at 2-2 warranted any less punishment than Bosingwa’s far more innocuous one of last week. A game changer without doubt but what might be of more interest will be (I predict) the total silence from both FA and media over van Persie’s Nazi style salute to the Arsenal supporters after his second goal. Both the foul and the salute would be major talking points had Chelsea players been responsible for either.
But what of the internal; the manager and the squad at Chelsea?
My intention here is to take a fans eye view of some of what we have and to suggest where change is needed. Of course, not everyone will agree but a good discussion would be healthy.
Starting at the top with Andre Villa Boas, I was amazed to hear some Chelsea supporters on the platform at Football Broadway after the game today suggesting that he should go. My own view was (and is) that he should never have been given the job in the first place, however now he is here we should give him at least two seasons to shape the team in his image – unless things really go tits up!
Why did I think he shouldn’t have got the job? Experience. Not lack of experience based on age, I believe his success speaks for itself. What I questioned was his experience of dealing with adversity; for the manager we employed last summer has never had to manage a team through a ‘sticky patch’ and we therefore have no Way of knowing how or if he will cope when such a patch inevitably comes along. Mistake made, he has the job, let’s stick with him.
The defence has looked shaky all season and I’m sure I’m not alone in getting through more than my share of finger nails watching our defensive frailties thus far this season. Work is needed on tactical positioning not just in the defence but in a midfield which has, at times, left the back four woefully exposed. Remember 2005 and how we defended as a whole team? It seems a long time ago!
Other than that, we don’t look too bad! We play some nice flowing, attacking football. But is it winning football? Draw comparisons with Arsenal’s last Premiership away scalp (Blackpool) and you can soon see that such football should not be mistaken for good football and certainly not for successful football!
On the player front, we have more than a few passengers.
Top of most people’s passenger list seems to be Salomon Kalou and I don’t disagree but I made my feelings on Kalou clear earlier this month (‘Salomon Kalou? You’re Having A Laugh!). Today I want to look at some of the other components either not up to scratch or perhaps getting past their sell by date.
Top of my list is Jose Bosingwa. At times he looks quite stylish, he looks great going forward and has even been known to deliver a mean cross on occasion but Bosingwa is a right back and in that role he is perhaps average at best. Defensively he is often caught out of position, frequently loses his man and is not definitely not the world’s best tackler. It is time he was moved on and a replacement found. The club’s best right back is probably Ivanovic but he was needed in the middle today and the second best right back we have is out injured and, anyway, Michael Essien is of far greater value in midfield. Paulo Ferreira? Great servant but at this stage of his career no more than useful squad player. The right back slot has needed addressing for some time and must be sorted out in January, although I fear that will already be far too late to save this season. Not AVB’s fault, Ancelotti had two years to address it and failed, AVB has merely inherited it.
The next player in my sights might be more surprising; John Obi Mikel. Although he is regularly among the top passers in the Opta stats, he has failed to fill the role of holding midfield player adequately. His pass completion ratio may be north of 85% but of real concern is how many of the 15% are in critical areas of the pitch. The stats look good but the reality is he has a habit of leaving our back four exposed. His tackling is suspect too, on occasion looking great then seconds later clumsy. A genuine holding midfield player needs to be high on AVB’s January shopping list.
The paucity of defensive cover is highlighted by the above two players’ shortcomings and the lack of viable alternatives. Yes, Michael Essien is out and yes we do have four good centre backs (when David Luiz concentrates) but the weakness at right back and in front of the back four will inevitably leave us exposed several times a game.
Holding position aside, our midfield looks stronger than last season when it was the long term injuries to Lampard and Essien which, in my opinion, undid our campaign. Or, more accurately, the lack of genuine, quality cover. This season Ramires has looked improved, Lampard is getting back to his best (but will need more rests as he ages), Meireles is a bargain and, erm, well, Essien aside that’s it. Cover is provided by promising youngsters in the shape of McEachran and Romeu but they will need easing in to gain experience. Mata can play deeper than he has been but, In short, we are still short in the middle of the park and realistically only an injury or two away from real problems.
Up front, Kalou must go. Drogba, much though we have loved him, has had his best days and Anelka is a shadow of his former self. Malouda continues to lack consistency looking world class one minute and non-league the next (okay, a bit harsh but you understand my sentiment). Sturridge is definitely one for the future and is becoming one for now and, today aside, Torres is starting to look a little bit more like, well, Fernando Torres! I like the look of Lukaku but like McEachran and Romeu, he will need time.
Then there is Juan Mata. Sublime. By far the signing of the summer.
So, who should be shown the door?
Kalou, Bosingwa and Mikel; thank you but good bye. You are not Chelsea class.
Drogba and Anelka; thanks for the memories, it’s been a privilege to watch you play but your time has passed.
A decent right back and a world class holding midfield player plus another midfield player of quality to bolster squad size and strength.
Add to that a better coached team (not just back four) defensively and we aren’t a million miles away from where we need to be.
Without? I don’t think it’s good. My preseason prediction last season was that we would struggle to qualify for the Champions’ League. That we did qualify was down to Arsenal and Liverpool’s woeful performances rather than any quality of our own. This season we need to improve considerably or start preparing for the Europa League (or worse). The starting point in personnel is at right back and holding midfield and in coaching terms is to again start defending as a team.