Chelsea FC: 4 Things Andre Villas-Boas Needs to Do to Win a Title This Season
Chelsea's title hopes took another major blow on Boxing Day with a draw against Fulham, their third draw in as many matches. In addition the blues have already lost four games in the Premier League, as many as Manchester United lost on their way to the title last year. As a result Chelsea are sitting in fourth place, 11 points behind the two Manchester clubs, and four behind Tottenham who have a game in hand.
The Champions League hasn't been too great for Chelsea, either, since Chelsea barely escaped their group with three wins out of six. It isn't going to get much better either after drawing a tough round of 16 matchup against stingy Napoli.
Last year Chelsea came up empty-handed for the first time since Jose Mourinho took the reigns for the 2004-2005 season. There is a very real chance of that happening for a second consecutive season. Here's what Chelsea need to do to avoid that dubious feat.
Improve the Defense
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What once was arguably the best defense in the Premier League has taken a major step back. Chelsea's fear of age catching up with them has finally come into fruition.
First, look at the two center backs. John Terry is slowing down. As a result, he's constantly out of position and can be beaten easily. His partner, David Luiz, has always been too mistake-prone for my liking and has already cost Chelsea some points this season.
Ivanovic has been the best defender for Chelsea, when he's at right back that is. But the issues at center back may force him into the heart of the defense again. This would give Bosingwa the starting right back spot back, which would be a downgrade.
On the other side of the pitch is Ashley Cole. Cole is only a shadow of what he once was, and, like Terry, age is catching up with him. He's held his own the last couple of seasons, but that can't much longer.
The good news for fans is that Villas-Boas has already started fixing up the back. Chelsea are close to signing center back Gary Cahill, and there are rumors from the Daily Mail about bringing in Uruguayan Alvaro Pereira at left back.
Stop Dropping Easy Points
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The title of this slide is a little misleading. Sure, there's no easy points in the Premier League, but should Chelsea really be dropping points to Queen Park Rangers, Wigan and Fulham?
These dropped points may, and probably will, come back to haunt Chelsea later in the season. As a matter of fact, it has already started to haunt them. Should Chelsea have beaten the teams mentioned above, they would only be two points away from the top of the table.
This issue has also appeared in the Champions League. After a draw to Genk and a loss to Leverkusen, Chelsea were forced to beat Valencia in their last group stage match to advance to the knockout stage. Even though they won the Blues, they finished second in the group. Due to the dropped points, they have to play two tough matches against Napoli.
This is the same issue that forced Chelsea to have to make an incredible comeback last season to finish second in the Premier League. It's highly unlikely that we will see another comeback like that should Chelsea fall behind too much. If Chelsea want a title, they need to stop shooting themselves in the foot.
Find a Winning Formula in the Midfield
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Ramires has been one of the bright spots for Chelsea this season and will probably continue to start. It's the other two spots that Villas-Boas needs to fill in. Oriel Romeu has performed well thanks to a dip in form from John Obi Mikel. For now, he has the starting spot on lock-down, but when Michael Essien comes back Villas-Boas is going to have to make a tough choice.
There's also the issue of Barcelona pressuring Chelsea into selling Romeu. Barca have been known to offer quite a lot of money and it wouldn't be the first stupid move Chelsea have made (Fernando Torres, Andriy Shevchenko, Claudio Pizzaro, etc.)
That leaves Frank Lampard and Raul Meireles. Lampard continues to score goals (eight this season), but Villas-Boas seems to prefer Meireles. As solid as Meireles has been this season, Lampard makes a pretty good case and has even told the media that he feels he should start.
Meireles has the potential to score as much as Lampard, but he's a pretty bad passer, which is concerning since he's a midfielder. Although Lampard is a more complete player that Meireles, there's always the issue of him being too old.
Villas-Boas could take the easy way out on this one and sign Modric, but, for now, he has to stick with what he has (although he won't have to wait long for the transfer window to open).
Solve the Striker Situation
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The Fernando Torres issue seem to be coming close to ending at the start of the season as he showed confidence and in many ways was Chelsea's best player. For some reason, Villas-Boas benched him after receiving a red card against Swansea, a game in which he scored.
As a result of his benching, Torres doesn't seem to have that same energy as he had at the start of the season and has dipped in form. Villas-Boas then went with Didier Drogba, a decision I strongly disagree with. At the start of the season he looked to be in downright terrible form. Bot his touch and finishing ability were off.
He did seem to have a resurrection against Valencia, but hasn't done too much since that match.
Villas-Boas now has to chose whether to stick with Drogba and hope he improves or start Torres and hope he gets back into form. Another option Villas-Boas should explore is putting Sturridge in the middle.
Sturridge has done well scoring as a winger, but he might be a little too selfish for that position and a move to the middle might be better for Chelsea. There are also rumors from the Daily Mail of a big offer being made to Edinson Cavani or Gonzalo Higuain which may be good long-term solutions.