Rating the Chelsea Players in London Derby Against Fulham
London derbies are frequent due to the number of clubs in the capital and fierce because of the close physical proximity of the clubs. The London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham alone boasts three Premier League clubs in QPR, Fulham and Chelsea.
Although the Blues are named after the borough whose borders run along the East Stand of Stamford Bridge, the stadium is technically in Fulham, and that's something the Cottagers won't let lie.
This particular borough derby was played out in the shadow of the recent events at Stamford Bridge. Following a drab 0-0 draw against Manchester City, interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez needed to produce a much-improved performance from his team, with a particular need to balance the defence with the attack. He failed at this test, and the result was another stalemate.
With another London derby away to West Ham up next and followed by a must-win game in the Champions League, Chelsea will need to stop trying not to concede and start trying to score, before 0-0 draws become the ultimate result this season.
The dour atmosphere failed to dampen the performances of some players, whilst at the same time exacerbating some existing problems with others. Here are my player ratings for the Chelsea team in this match.
Petr Cech: 7.5/10
The Chelsea 'keeper made some decent saves, whilst again stepping in to captain the side in the absence of either John Terry or Frank Lampard. He still looked out of control at times and struggled to communicate with his centre-backs, but he kept a clean sheet for the second game in a row.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
Starting at right-back with Branislav Ivanovic moving to centre-back, Azpilicueta, or Dave as he is known amongst Chelsea fans, had a good game. He made some very intelligent runs down the wing and provided some good crosses. A fair few went awry but he showed Wednesday night that he is capable of playing regularly, although the defensive side of his game still needs work.
Branislav Ivanovic: 7/10
Ivanovic showed his usual high work rate both going forward and defending, and had a chance to score late in the game. He looks more comfortable when partnering David Luiz in the centre of the back four and keeps the Brazilian's wilder instincts in check.
David Luiz: 7/10
Luiz was much improved in this match from recent performances. Whilst still making crazy runs in attack, he was much better at recovering his position to perform his defensive duties. He knew where his man was at all times and generally looked much stronger in his 12-yard box.
Ashley Cole: 7.5/10
With talks over a contract renewal stalled, it looks likely that Cole will be leaving Stamford Bridge by the summer. He will be sorely missed if he does go, as the Blues have come to rely on his ever-presence on the left side of the defence. Some of the cross-field passes he provided in this game were just sublime, and he was as strong as ever at the back.
Ryan Bertrand: 6/10
The youngster started this game higher up the pitch on the left side of the attacking midfield trio. He worked very hard but was not as effective as either Mata, Hazard or Oscar are in the same position. His game ended after 63 minutes when he was substituted for Juan Mata.
Bertrand needs to work on some aspects of his game, most notably his decision-making and distribution, but this season could turn out to be the making of him as a fixture in the first team.
Oriol Romeu: 5/10
The young defensive midfielder spent a large part of the evening lying on the floor and found himself in some poor positions throughout the game. He is certainly not yet up to the standard of Michael Essien, currently on loan at Real Madrid, or John Obi Mikel.
Ramires had a very good game, looking positive when making breaks forward by himself as well as providing Fernando Torres with some good service. He played a few good balls over the top to Torres and whilst they didn't materialise into goals, he was involved in the few positive attacks created by the Blues.
Eden Hazard: 7/10
Hazard was great on the ball and was very successful at drawing players to him. His take-ons were largely unsuccessful due to the fact that he had three players marking him until he was substituted in the 83rd minute for Marko Marin. He won some fouls leading to free kicks in dangerous areas, and the fact that they weren't converted wasn't down to him.
Oscar made some great jinking runs through the middle, but his first touch was not as great as it was at the start of the season. He was still working hard and creating chances, although he did not provide the long ball over the top that Torres seems to need.
Fernando Torres: 6/10
Torres had two shots on target, a great improvement on his performance against West Bromwich Albion. His first shot was tame and straight at the Fulham 'keeper and his second was a volley he didn't connect with properly, but any progress must be seen as positive. Despite this, he was still failing to make any defence-splitting runs and is not on the same wavelength as the rest of the players.
Substitutes: Juan Mata 6.5/10 and Marko Marin 6.5/10
Mata was rested from the starting 11 as Chelsea have an intense run of fixtures ahead. He was brought on for Ryan Bertrand after an hour and made a positive difference to Chelsea's set pieces, although he failed to have too much of an impact on their open play.
Marko Marin has been out injured but made his Premier League debut for the last 10 minutes of the game. He brought width and creativity to the team and should start vs. West Ham. If Benitez wants to test out the different options and assess what works best, he should start Marin and Victor Moses on the wings with Mata playing through the middle. If that experiment falls flat on its face, he can still swap the wide men for Oscar and Hazard.
It's a win-win, and that has to be better than draw-draw, doesn't it?
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