Steaua Bucuresti 1-0 Chelsea: 4 Tactical Talking Points from Blues' Loss
Chelsea put in a lacklustre performance in Bucharest, falling 1-0 to hosts Steaua on a historic night for the Romanian club.
Rafa Benitez's side were sluggish, slow and hesitant going forward, while the Ros-Albastrii played their hearts out in what was probably the game of their lives.
What went wrong for the Blues on Thursday? Here are four tactical talking points.
The negative mantra attached to Rafa Benitez's tactics isn't taken that seriously by other fanbases, but let this be a lesson to us all—it's an accurate one.
It may have been a 4-2-3-1 formation, but the Blues never got out of first gear in attack. Ryan Bertrand and Branislav Ivanovic played as deep as full-backs go—when launching attacks, it was often just Fernando Torres and Eden Hazard contributing.
Yossi Benayoun—deployed as a "right-winger"—was more of a second right-back.
The teams lined up in identical 4-2-3-1 formations, and the game was slow to get going. With both sides feeling each other out and non-committal going forward, it was 20 minutes before proceedings heated up.
But the longer Chelsea remained reluctant to get involved, the clearer it became to Steaua Bucuresti that their opponents genuinely weren't interested.
Chelsea didn't press whilst off the ball, they tracked their men half-heartedly and when in possession, barely anyone made a run or offered to receive.
The polar opposite, meanwhile, was occurring on the other side of the ball. This was the biggest night for Steaua as a club for decades and they rose to the occasion.
The passing was quick, the movement was positive and confidence was high. Some of the build-up play was very commendable—to be truthful, Steaua are worthy winners.
A Stud on One Side, a Dud on the Other?
Left-back. It's the position that defined this game.
Steaua Bucuresti's Iasmin Latovlevici, my Man of the Match, was electric. He's not an elite player, but he more than makes up for it with enthusiasm—his pace on Thursday was spot on.
He was positive, made runs off the ball, didn't look scared in possession and combined very well with stand-in left-winger Cristian Tanase.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, they didn't get the same sort of play out of their own left-back Ryan Bertrand.
He was timid, reluctant to go forward, nervous in possession and gave away a penalty—soft or not—for the game-winning goal.
Question marks have been hanging over the young Englishman's head for a long time, so I asked some fans what they thought of him.
Marko Marin a Shot in the Arm
Many questioned why Yossi Benayoun—a player who clearly has no long-term future with Chelsea—started over the upcoming Marko Marin—a player who desperately needs game time in order to find form.
Benayoun had absolutely no effect on the game in a deep, withdrawn role, and the one chance Chelsea did get fell to him and he squandered it.
But when Marin was introduced in the 75th minute, he provided the enthusiasm the entire Blues team had been lacking all game long. This was a player that was eager to impress and showcase his skills, not bemoaning the very fact that they were in Romania on a Thursday evening.
He provided a good energetic presence on the left that inspired those around him temporarily. His mazy run and shot on goal likely would have been an equaliser if he wasn't so rusty.