Chelsea vs. PSG: 6 Things We Learned About the Blues' Hopes for the New Season
Chelsea completed their second game of their US tour with a 1-1 draw to PSG from glorious Yankee Stadium. A game where the main attraction was as much the venue as the teams playing, it lived up to as much as you could expect from a preseason game.
Javior Pastore weaved his way through the box and clanks a chip off the post. Luckily for PSG, it feels right to Nene waiting unmarked at the penalty spot to put away for the opener. Lucas Piazon got his first goal in a Blue uniform, leveling from six yards out after a nice one-two with Ramires to even it at 1-1.
It is not a science to decipher what a preseason match means for the season, but here are six things we could take a ways from this one as we inch closer toward opening day.
Frank Lampard Still Makes It All Go
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I hate to gloat, but I can’t resist taking another jab at the many who less than a year ago called for the end of Super Frank at Stamford Bridge. Heading into the 2012-13 season, with yet another FA Cup and Champions League title under his belt, he came out under the lights of Yankee Stadium and continued to prove that he is the one that makes it all happen for Chelsea.
The likes of Mata, Hazard, Marko Marin and Josh McEachran will make their names known over the coming seasons, hoping to even approach what Lampard did in his decade with the club, but it is still going to come down to the legends play to guide Chelsea back to an English title.
In one half of play he managed two shots and the Blues only one on target. He was his normal influential self, distributing the ball from his still awkward to see deep role, with directness and precision. Much in contrast to the fancy footwork of his younger teammates, he still gallops over legs as opposes to dancing around them, but it is effective nonetheless.
At 34 years old, the concern is always going to be health. Di Matteo cannot expect the 50-game season he put in when in his mid-20s. Lampard stays fresh and healthy for the big matches; there is really no limit on what this team can achieve. Should his age show, then there could be a grace period when the club learns how to play without their superstar.
Eden Hazard’s Health Can Determine It All
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I don’t like being wrong, so instead of admitting that suggesting my skepticism about Eden Hazard was misplaced, I rather just creatively defend my initial position.
Through two games in a Chelsea uniform, Hazard has looked very good. He has been all he was built up to be—a creative and dynamic midfielder, meant to force the point of attack with slaloming runs through the defense and pinpoint passes. Of course, he has only done this so far against an OK MLS team by that league's standards and a PSG side who’s just as concerned with making it through the preseason without injuries as Chelsea.
With all that said, he still plays a game where he won’t bruise his way to the goal, but the defenders will be more brutal in defending him. Hazard is use to playing a lot of games, over 150 in the past three club seasons combined. But never in one as physically demanding as the EPL.
There is no love lost in the England; you make a defender look stupid—as Hazard will surely do more than once —you are going to get hit on the next play. The question is whether or not Hazard will be able to take that over the course of the season. He is not necessarily weak, but at 1.79m and 69K, he will not be running over the EPL giants.
He is really looking more like the one who will create the goals up top. That little bit of guile that Chelsea was missing last season, a playmaker who can open up the midfield is now arguably their biggest player now and the for the future. His health could prove the deciding factor in the success of the Chelsea season.
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I feel conflicted watching Chelsea play. On the one hand, players like Marko Marin and Eden Hazard have given a much-needed adrenaline shot to a group that often times looked lethargic the previous season. But at the same time, this is also not the same Chelsea team that we all know from the past decade of success. Now, it means little how I feel about this, but it means a quite a lot when some of the Chelsea players seem to have the same sentiment.
With a club that buys its talent, you are always relying on hoping that the pieces fit together and that the different background can somehow meld into a present constant. Tonight’s game showed they are still a distance to go before they bridge that gap.
It was most obvious in the play of Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian youngster whose excellent performance against the Sounders had me asking “Drogba who?” was a spectator for most of the match. This had more to do with him playing the role he was born to, as a big man holding up the ball. But the midfield around him is now looking for someone to feed the ball to, not off of.
Of course, the return of Fernando Torres offers a much better compliment to the parts here tonight, but they have to hope that for once he is the answer, or the disconnect could cost them dearly.
No Right-Back Means No Hope
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Last season, Chelsea made history without a right-back. Sound blunt? Well, there is really no other way to put it. Sure, Jose Bosingwa did an alright job, but more often than not, he had us all sitting in our own urine. Ryan Bertrand was fine, but you can only expect so much of a 22-year-old making his first consistent appearances. And Branislav Ivanovic was needed elsewhere too often to make him and every game guy on the flank.
The Blues can’t rely on lightning to strike twice (or, given the way the final games of last season went, for the 100th time). They need to find a real right-back.
Sam Hutchinson started in the role tonight, but was less than convincing against Javier Pastore. Yes, Pastore is one of the better midfielders in the game today, but you have to be able to stop the best to challengers to remain on top. Nathanial Chabolah came on for the second and did well, but hardly challenged against the backups of PSG.
With a much more aggressive attack than we have seen in the past, Chelsea cannot afford to occupy the right side of their pitch primarily with defense. Whoever is on the flank going forward needs to make that their primary responsibility, not tracking back to help out on defense the way Ramires did for much of last year. It will ruin the free-flowing moves they have in players like Juan Mata and Eden Hazard and continue to isolate whoever is playing striker.
Fernando Torres Is Missed?
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Hard to believe, but Fernando Torres may be the most important cog on this team. It has very little to do with him playing well at Euros or even showing signs of improvement toward the end of last season. But more so with simply how he plays.
As I mentioned previously, this new midfield is gear to feed the ball to someone making a run. No longer will they pass it to a forward with back to goal to hold up the ball and play off his side. And there is also less attack down the flanks looking for crosses than ever before. Quick passes through the middle need someone who will give lanes to get behind the backline, a Torres specialty.
He may not be as crafty as he once was, but he still has plenty of pace and purpose when making runs. With the inventive players he now has to feed him the ball, he should find it a much more productive season. The one he was always meant to have.
Different Team, Same Old Story
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As much as we love to see the brilliance of the new signings and the continued dominance of the old guard, we are still going to have to watch games in diapers. Chelsea got a 1-1 draw tonight, but it was not without leaving a hole in my stomach from acid induced anxiety. Too many chances for PSG and not enough for the Blues.
But as always, they managed to do enough to get a result.
Yes, there is of course a mix of players and Di Matteo is trying things out. Odds are, we will not once during the season see a starting lineup with Hutchinson, Ferriera, De Bruyne and Kakuta all at once. But it still makes me feel that as much as things have changed, the mentality is the same.
Now, most would probably like to see Chelsea win every match 4-0 and have it put away by half, but I don’t. I like this live on the edge of your seat team. I enjoy the fact that in the 88th minute, I still care. So what if they lose on a late goal? It sucks, but you cannot deny the entertainment. I know I stand on a small island with this stance surrounded by few others, but I have always preferred entertainment to dominance.
Though, watching Chelsea dominate is entertaining as well. These are the questions that keep sportswriters up at night. Pity us!
What Do You Think This Game Means for Chelsea's Hopes?
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Tonight was about Yankee stadium. I know football enthusiasts may hate the idea of something baseball related trumping their game, but it is just the preseason. With that said, the result is about looking toward the future, not reflecting on the past.
So what do you think this game does for the Blue's 2012/13 hopes?
As always, please leave your comments below and thanks for reading!
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