Chelsea vs. QPR: 6 Things We Learned from Chelsea's 0-1 Defeat
It was the sound of groans and boos which rang in the new year at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea slumped to defeat in their first game of 2013. Despite having the ball in the back of the net after being ruled offside, Chelsea looked a shadow of the side that had seemingly begun to find its feet under Rafael Benitez.
They wasted chance after chance and only managed two shots on target throughout the whole 90 minutes.
Here are six things we learned from Chelsea's disappointing defeat.
1. Rafael Benitez Is the New Tinkerman
Benitez made several changes to the starting lineup as Chelsea's fixture list gets even more crowded as they enter 2013. Petr Cech injured his groin against Everton so Ross Turnbull replaced him in goal, and there were starts for the sidelined Oscar, Marko Marin and Ryan Bertrand as Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Ashley Cole warmed the bench.
There have been calls from all quarters to include Marin in the team, but to throw him in to an intensely physical London derby when he has hardly played since August seems unlikely to get the best out of him. As it was, he was lucky to stay on the pitch when his high tackle on Stephane Mbia after four minutes was punished only with a yellow card.
It was obvious early on in the match that Chelsea needed to do something to improve their lacklustre attack, but it took Benitez an hour to replace Marin with Hazard and a further 15 minutes for him to introduce their key playmaker in Mata.
There are obviously tired legs within the squad, but there needs to be some thought put in to any rotation, and the decision to essentially write off QPR by fielding a weakened side is one that Benitez will come to regret.
2. Chelsea Lack Strength in Depth
Chelsea have a lot of talent within their team, but once you look outside of the regular starting 11 and substitutes bench, the players you find there look mediocre at best.
The likes of Ryan Bertrand and Lucas Piazon are still honing their craft, and the loss of more experienced players such as John Terry and Mikel to injury has shown that Chelsea are still lacking top-quality cover in several key areas.
The January transfer window is the perfect time to remedy this but it won't be easy—or cheap.
3. Fernando Torres Is Not "Back"
As the arrival of his former manager at Stamford Bridge coincided with him finding the net four times in two games, many people were heralding the return of the great Fernando Torres. They tipped him to go on to score 20 goals and really make a name for himself at Chelsea.
That would have been something of a footballing fairy tale, as the lost boy is reunited with his mentor and goes on to achieve great success. However, in the cold light of reality, that was never going to happen.
Torres is not a boy; he is a 28-year-old man, and his best days are behind him.
During his time at Liverpool he relied on bursts of acceleration that saw him beat the offside trap to latch onto balls over the top from Steven Gerrard time and time again. That pace is no longer part of his arsenal, nor is there any discernible desire to try and win the game for the team and the fans.
He looked disinterested against QPR and when his only shot of the game is a half-hearted attempt straight at the 'keeper, you have to wonder how this man has now seen off three different Chelsea managers.
4. Victor Moses Deserves His Place in the Starting 11
Since being given a run in the team, starting with regular substitute appearances, Victor Moses has become a key player in Chelsea's glut of attacking midfielders. He adds a spark of creativity and is always determined to get the ball into the box, rather than just shooting aimlessly from outside the box.
He was unlucky not to score against QPR, and he and Oscar were the only two Chelsea players who looked at all threatening going forward.
5. Chelsea Miss John Obi Mikel
Mikel is one of those players who polarises opinion. If you polled 100 Chelsea fans, 50 would tell you that he's the next Michael Essien, while the other 50 would tell you that he's the biggest waste of space since Fernando Torres.
He is still very young when you bear in mind that defensive players tend to hit their prime in their late 20s or early 30s, and he has become far more composed in recent years. With him in the side, you can guarantee that there will be somebody around the halfway line who is keeping an eye on both the defence and attack, ready to make an important interception.
You can argue that Luiz is better at passing and Frank Lampard is better at going forward, but Mikel turns out consistently good performances and is improving with each passing year. He is also better than both of those players at man-marking, and had he been available against QPR, there is every chance he would have picked up Adel Taarabt before he could pass to Shaun Wright-Phillips for their goal.
6. Chelsea Are Very Unlikely to Win Anything This Season
Chelsea can almost certainly count themselves out of the running for the Premier League now, as they are 14 points adrift of the leaders Manchester United with only a game in hand. Worryingly for the current European champions, their form has been so inconsistent that they could easily find themselves with nothing left to play for by the end of February.
Having won 12 trophies in as many years, to be contemplating an empty-handed end to the season in January should be unthinkable, but it's frighteningly possible.
If they continue to produce lacklustre performances like they did against QPR, if they continue to fall apart as they did against West Ham and if they continue to waste their chances even when they dominate the game, they will win nothing. The sooner they realise this and start putting away the chances they are creating, the more likely it is that they will get at least one decent cup run.
If only they had an inspirational manager with a great passion for the club.
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