Chelsea lost out their chance to reduce the gap at the top of the table which effectively ended their slim chances of winning the Premier League this season. Ironically, the last time Norwich kept a clean sheet, way back in 2005, Chelsea went on to win the Premier League though this time the chances of that happening is next to impossible.
With four of the presently top five clubs going into action amongst themselves today's match against the Canaries was Chelsea's best chance to make up on lost ground. But Chelsea played shabbily as Villas-Boas's men looked out of ideas to break open a tightly knit Norwich defense.
In the following slides we take a look into the five things we learnt from the shabby draw which virtually put an end to Chelsea's EPL ambitions.
The match at Carrow Road was predicted by many Chelsea faithful as the one which would open the floodgates for misfiring forward Torres.
In the past few weeks El Nino has looked quite sharp than earlier though he is yet to end his barren run of goals. The Spaniard's lack of goals have had a telling effect on Chelsea's title ambitions this season. Villas-Boas has undertaken the duty to create a Chelsea squad so as to bring out the maximum from El Nino.
Yesterday's formation was specially built to give Torres all the chances he might need to score a goal but as before the misfiring Spaniard let down again. His extremely low morale and lack of confidence can be attributed to his missing chances. But it has been now more than 12 months of giving chances and a line has to be drawn. Torres has now failed to score in 11 consecutive Premier League match, beating his own earlier worst record of 10 matches.
Yesterday, Chelsea undoubtedly played too carelessly and half-heartedly but Torres can be rightly blamed for failing to convert the best chance of the match and the winner itself. The match against the Canaries dispelled any hopes of Torres finding his form in the near future as it glaringly put forward that El Nino is miles sway from any resurrection (much-awaited in his case).
It is an irony that Chelsea are revelling in the fact that they have managed to keep three clean-sheets in a row.
In the new season, Chelsea have been rather very ill-disciplined at the back conceding more than Sunderland leave alone the top teams. They have conceded goals all too often at critical times to concede critical leads and settle with lame draws, something that has cost them crucial points. Chelsea's poor defensive exploits were attributed to Villas-Boas's plans of playing a high defensive line which the squad was uncomfortable to apply.
But after a few misadventures Chelsea are back to their more known playing style. The arrival of Gary Cahill was welcomed heartily as it meant more quality at the back for Blues. While Terry is still the most influential around Luiz too looked confident yesterday at Carrow Road and had a good game. Norwich are a team, who are not seen as a team capable of threatening Chelsea every now and then. But the Canaries made some incisive moves no doubt but the defense looked pretty tight to be able to thwart any dangers.
The writing has been on the wall since Chelsea's poor performance in the new season. The team has lacked creativity in the midfield and Villas-Boas needs to address that if he is to go even close to winning anything on his debut season.
Chelsea held long sessions of possession in both halves of the match but lacked the creative spark to break open a tightly knit Norwich defense (which only kept it's first EPL clean-sheet in six years). Lampard has never looked worse than this. Norwich gave him all the time he needed with the ball but he failed to create any moment of magic. Mata has been the only consistent performer at Chelsea's midfield. Meireles and Ramires have been impressive but they lack that special spark that City have in David Silva, Spurs have in Gareth Bale or United have in Nani or Valencia.
One thing that was very clear in the match against the Canaries was that Chelsea had the quality to keep possession for majority of the match but lacked the spark of genius to score a goal. Villas-Boas has stated that after Gary Cahill they are effectively looking to make only one buy. That buy must be that "Special One" and Chelsea should be ready to break the bank if needed to secure that. If Villas-Boas gets his choice right and is able to land that one special player then Chelsea has a chance to fight for at least one trophy this season.
Yesterday's lame draw for Chelsea combined with the wins for both Manchester clubs today means that the Blues' are effectively out of the title race and stand absolutely no chance to even finish second.
Villas-Boas and his players had seemed quite confident of title hopes even as early as last week but with yesterday's poor show there is no doubt that Chelsea can at the most come third. The heart-wrenching loss for Tottenham today meant Chelsea are only five points behind their cross-town rivals. While overcoming a 13-point gap needs something miraculous, writing off a five point difference is not that tough and if Chelsea can make one more effective buy in January they stand a good chance to overcome Tottenham and claim third and sealing a Champions League spot for next season.
With Chelsea being out of the Premier League title race as well as out from the League Cup it is now just two more competitions they have to focus on. The two competitions being the Champions League and the FA Cup. With Napoli coming up as their next opponents in the Champions League last 16 round, Villas-Boas needs to find the right mix and get his tactics right to keep Chelsea's European dreams alive.
Given Chelsea's present state, we are slow and dull giving ample time for our opponents to strangle any attack, Villas-Boas needs to chalk out an emergency way out of this soup.
The buzz has been there now for quite some time. Bring in a quality right-back and make do with the likes of Bosingwa and Ferreira.
The right back position has been a weak spot for Chelsea in the past few seasons and more glaringly this time around. Jose Bosingwa has been virtually ineffective while Ivanovic has been consistent if not impressive. Chelsea's lack of a quality right-back, something similar to Ashley Cole has cost them quite a number of matches, valuable points and effectively their title ambitions.
Yesterday against Norwich too Bosingwa was not all the quite impressive. His ability to move forward surpasses his defensive qualities which creates a weak link in Chelsea's defense. He looked at sea controlling Holt but it was his cross to Torres that could have helped Chelsea to the three points. He survived against a not-so-top team like Norwich but has been and will be exploited by bigger and better teams.
Ivanovic on the other hand has better defensive qualities compared to Bosingwa but lacks the attacking qualities of his fellow Blue. It is high time for Chelsea to make do with their Portuguese right-back duo of Ferreira (who is now just a sitting duck) and Bosingwa. Villas-Boas must bring in a top quality right-back if Chelsea are to return to their former defensive glory days of Jose Mourinho and be in the contention for atleast one title come the end of the season.