There was not hangover from the midweek brilliance at Camp Nou as Chelsea continued their excellent form, thrashing local rivals QPR 6-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Fernando Torres was the undeniable man of the match, scoring his first hat trick for the Blues and doing it with absolute perfection. Granted it was against a relegation side, but it is still refreshing whenever he seems to flash back to the £50 million he was bought for.
The win was vital in keeping them in the hunt for fourth-place finish in the league, now only one point back of Newcastle for that spot and two ahead of Tottenham with a game in hand at the time of this being written.
It seems a little deflating to be able to find anything of real substance given the tame nature of this match relative to the past two weeks of football. But there are always a few talking points if you just look hard enough.
Here are the five I found.
I am not going to run down the many ups and downs of Torres’ career with the Blues or ever go as far to say he is back. But his three goals today, making it four in the past two matches, prove one thing for the fans: He can still be a striker.
He has not been a miserable failure this season as he has gotten his fair share of assists and had a handful of excellent performances. But what has really kept him from being what we all want him to be is his lack of finishing. Too many times has he made the right run and gotten the ball in a good spot, only to flub the chance in the end.
But not today.
All three goals were taken with the kind of confidence and bravado you would like to see out of your main striker. The first, he beat the back line and pushed it around the QPR keeper to put it into an empty net. The second, he poached on the end of some miscommunication on the QPR back line. And the third saw him beat the offside trap and place it in from a sharp angle.
None were particularly memorable, but all were ideal for a player who just needs to score over anything else.
If I was bold and vociferous, I would suggest that watching these two play together would make me say, “Iniesta and Xavi who?” But alas I strive for some sort of imaginary impartiality at times and am just going to suggest that they are as good a midfield tandem as any in the EPL.
You would have to look at some in-depth stats to see really how the two linked up in numbers, but the eye test would suggest to you that they had a telepathic connection today. Lampard again sat a little behind Mata, but the two worked in and out of place with each other during the attack, creating a heck of a lot of confusion for the QPR defense.
They more than once created chances just between the two of them, passing the ball back and forth down the center of the pitch, often allowing Mata to carry it up, Lampard to make the run off it and a give-and-go or two in the box to set up a chance.
Unfortunately, that last pass or touch was the only thing lacking or either of them could have been on a hat trick as well.
With Ramires out for the Champions League final, the Blues will have to find a way to score out of the midfield without conceding on the counter. Given Mata and Lampard’s ball control and their vision for one another, this may be their best possible bet.
I am not going to jump off the deep end and suggest that Bosingwa’s performance against a stale QPR attack is worth making him the full-time man in the center half, but it is certainly worth a mention given the decrepit state the back line is in.
With David Luiz and Gary Cahill’s return time still questionable and Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry both suspended for the Champions League final, there is more than a concern about who will be the starting center-backs.
Today, Bosingwa at least gave a little confidence to the fans if he has to fill in.
So often we criticize Bosingwa for forgetting his defensive duties and instead preferring to bust down the flank to help the attack. But in his central role today, he seemed to understand that defense first and looked very good in doing so.
Sure, Bobby Zamora is not Mario Gomez and the players providing the balls are not at Bayern’s level, but he was perfect today and that is all you can ask for in a game like this. Bosingwa may not be the best defender in the world, but when he makes that his primary concern, he is at least above average.
When I first realized the dark days of the season—those when AVB was in rule—it was when Chelsea were set to play Aston Villa in late December. I recognized this because it was the very first time as a Chelsea fan that I was not confident of a win or at least anything that would have surprised me. Chelsea lost that game 3-1.
But with a new year has come new hope as Roberto Di Matteo has brought back the light and the confidence in the players that has resonated amongst the fans, again making them favorites to win every one of their remaining domestic games.
On the schedule, Chelsea have left Newcastle, Liverpool twice and Blackburn. With the first and last both at home and Chelsea currently in better form, they have to be the odds-on favorite. The first meeting against Liverpool is the FA Cup Final at Wembley, which might as well be their home given their incredible record there.
The second game against the Reds is up at Anfield and is the most difficult game left in England, but the way they are playing they should be able to come away with as full three points.
The dark days were tough simply because it was something I had not felt before, a foreign distrust that made me feel sour and like I was a bad fan. But they are gone now and seem destined to stay away for the rest of the season.
What is most remarkable about today’s win was not the individual performances of Torres, Lamps, Mata or Bosingwa. It was not the six goals or even the lightning-fast start. It was the fact that every single player out there was exceptional in their contribution.
Four different players got goals and another two had assists. No starter (according to whoscored.com) rated below a seven on a rating scale out of 10. Even the oft-maligned Florent Malouda, who made more than his fair share of mistakes in the 20 minutes he played, managed to get a goal.
Combine that with the players who were exceptional in the Barca match but did not feature today and you have to wonder: Where is the weak player on this squad? A team that once seemed to struggle to find goals from anywhere now boasts a lineup where there are six or seven legitimate goal threats on the field at any time.
Then, of course, you can never overlook the defense. A back line whose only weakness is now playing at his best in a different role and a midfield which tracks back and covers the holes better than perhaps any in the world.
This is the Chelsea team we wanted to see all year. Though many may be saying “finally,” we can all be happy that it is happening at the most important moment of the whole season.
Chelsea are now waiting to see what their other London rival Tottenham do in their afternoon game against Blackburn. Should the inconsistent Spurs drop points, then that fourth-place spot in the league is Chelsea’s for the taking.
It will be a very fun and exciting close to the season—perhaps the most exhilarating we have seen in quite a few years, as every single result can mean the difference between glory and utter failure.
So what did you learn from Chelsea’s biggest win of the season?
As always, please leave your comments below and thanks for reading!
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