Everton vs Chelsea: Six Things We Learned from Chelsea's 2-1 Win
Chelsea entered their final game of 2012 fourth in the Premier League, with two games in hand on the teams above them. They were behind inside of two minutes after a Steven Pienaar shot from a rebound off the bar. The score was levelled by Frank Lampard just before halftime. With his contract expiring next summer, there is every chance that this game will be his last for Chelsea.
If that turns out to be the case, his second goal to make it 2-1 for Chelsea would be a fitting way for the midfielder to sign off.
Here are six things we learned from Chelsea's final win of 2012.
1. Chelsea Desperately Miss John Terry
Chelsea's captain is more than just an excellent defender. He brings a leadership and passion that only someone who has played for a club for their entire professional career can bring.
With Terry on the side, the defence is far more organised, and there are fewer instances of players being caught out of position.
The sooner he completes his recovery, the sooner Chelsea's season can begin to kick on.
2. Frank Lampard Is Still an Important Part of the Chelsea Side
Frank Lampard has played for Chelsea since 2001 and has been a prolific goal scorer from the midfield in that time. With the club standing firm on their policy of only offering players over 30 a one-year extension on any deal, it looks likely that Lampard will be ending his career away from Stamford Bridge.
I have stated before that I think losing Ashley Cole would be more detrimental to the side than if Lampard were to go, but that doesn't mean I want to see him leave. He has stated several times in the past that he wants to end his career at Chelsea, and you'd struggle to find any fan who wants to see him go.
He is paid a lot of money, and I can see the pragmatism in not offering him the same deal at 34 years old. It's perfectly logical, but that doesn't make it right.
3. Chelsea Under Benitez Are Better on the Road
Whilst they enjoyed an 8-0 victory over Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge in their last home game, the Blues have definitely benefited when they have been away from the frosty atmosphere of Stamford Bridge.
Despite beginning to turn the team around, Benitez is still not welcomed by the majority of Chelsea fans, and they need to ignore his existence as best they can in order to show the support that the team needs.
4. Benitez Needs to Start Oscar More Often
After being brought in during the summer, the young Brazilian made an immediate impact on the Chelsea side. His pace, trickery and tenacity cause all sorts of problems for opposing defences, and when he combines with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, the trio are almost unplayable.
Of that midfield triumvirate, the player most in need of a rest is Juan Mata, who has not had any time off since the summer of 2011. Instead he has chosen to drop Oscar from the starting lineup in the last three games, and if he doesn't get the game time over the rest of the season, he is likely to feel shunned.
When Fernando Torres was left out, the board jumped through hoops to make sure he was happy. I hope they show the same concern for Oscar's welfare.
5. Chelsea Are Still Vulnerable to Counter Attacks
As they showed in the Boxing Day fixture against Norwich City, Chelsea are most comfortable playing possession football.
When they are only able to counter, Chelsea are vulnerable as they are still without a striker in the mould of Robin van Persie or Javier Hernandez who looks like scoring from every attack.
6. The January Transfer Window Will Make or Break Chelsea's Season
With Petr Cech leaving the game at halftime, Chelsea's list of injured players is growing at an alarming rate. When you factor in the likely departures of Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea will need to act quickly in the January transfer window in order to keep up with the two Manchester clubs.
With Financial Fair Play being brought in, Chelsea will be unable to splash the cash in the way they are used to, so they will have to be smart to ensure they comply with the new regulations whilst still bolstering the squad.