Aston Villa vs. Chelsea: 5 Things We Learned

Dan Levene@@blueschronicleFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2014

Aston Villa vs. Chelsea: 5 Things We Learned

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    Chelsea saw red—twice—and had their boss sent to the stands, as a contentious game met a fiery end at Villa Park.

    There were complaints about a disallowed Nemanja Matic goal, and a mixture of flair and fluke from Fabian Delph kept all three points for the home side.

    How crucial will this result be to the title race? And what did we learn from Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea...?

Chris Foy Had a Stinker

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    It is always easy to call these things, from the comparative comfort of the front room and a thousand TV replays.

    But even sat at Villa Park and without such luxuries, it was possible to see that the Wirral-based ref didn't have the greatest of games.

    In seemingly allowing, then disallowing Nemanja Matic's goal, he caused confusion—as well as some consternation that the paltry matter of Branislav Ivanovic's armpit should carry the weight to nullify it.

    In showing two yellow cards to the hapless, and largely blameless Willian, he besmirched an otherwise blameless performance with yet another of the red cards he so freely issues.

    The late Ramires red was issued with a sounder case. But, by then, Foy had largely lost control of the game.

    Conspiracy theorists abound—but the truth is that Foy often has a stinker, and it does't really matter who is playing.

Chelsea Need to Set the Alarm Clock an Hour Earlier

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    Prior to today, Chelsea's last eight Premier League goals had come in the second half.

    Four against Tottenham, three against Fulham, and one deep in added time against Everton.

    And it followed that at Villa Park; Chelsea had yet another dour first half.

    They were marginally better after the break, at least initially, but it felt like the game was lost largely due to Chelsea's inability to win it before the interval.

Oscar Has Really Gone off the Boil

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    Such a vital part of Chelsea's first team for the first half of the season, the young Brazilian had another hour and a bit to forget today.

    It was the latest in a series of fair to middling performances—probably only so remarkable, because of what we have all come to expect of him.

    The prevailing thought is not that the incredibly gifted midfielder has lost it per se, but that he is simply showing the effects of too much football.

    Without Oscar firing on all cylinders, Chelsea were overreliant on Eden Hazard—and that, in turn, overloaded the pressure on the Belgian.

    With that creative unit malfunctioning, Blues were unable to create any real enduring threat.

Championships Are Won and Lost on Days Like This

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    Manchester City, down to 10 men, lift their game and win away.

    Chelsea, down first to 10 and then to nine, crashed to undisciplined defeat.

    If Jose Mourinho thought City had the advantage with three games in hand and a nine-point deficit, they certainly do now that the gap is down to six.

    Mourinho has said all along his side lack the special something that makes them real title contenders—and we may have seen here what that something was.

    Yes, they copped the flack of poor refereeing decisions, but ultimately they failed to put in the performance to get the points.

Chelsea Will Be Up Against It Next Weekend

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    Willian out. Ramires out. Mourinho possibly banned. Maybe other repercussions from the post-match conduct of players and manager.

    And just the small matter of Arsenal visiting next Saturday lunchtime.

    Chelsea don't like to do things the easy way.

    The depth of midfield talent available means Chelsea shouldn't struggle to find an XI worthy of the badge: Andre Schurrle, Oscar, Eden Hazard; Frank Lampard, Nemaja Matic, and possible David Luiz.

    But Mourinho has had some of his key team-selection decisions taken out of his hands. Not ideal for such a key match.