Aside from getting fit, preseason tours are nothing more than a fort night-long commercial for the traveling club with a couple of friendlies mixed in. For Andre Villas-Boas and Chelsea, the club's tour of Asia has taken on added importance.
The Blues kicked off the tour with a lackluster, 1-0 win over Malaysia XI. Chelsea took the lead when a Didier Drogba free kick deflected off the post and the Malaysian goalkeeper to just creep over the goal-line. The team looked disjointed from the outset but still managed to create a number of chances that, in the end, went begging.
Getting worked up over a preseason friendly is not the smartest idea, but concerns have to be raised over Fernando Torres' lack of finishing touch. Once again, the Spainish international found himself in dangerous positions throughout his 45 minutes of pitch time; and, once again, El Nino failed to cash in.
Can the Spaniard's lack of finish be attributed to preseaspn rust, or has he not found his way out of his post-Liverpool rut? The same type of question can be asked of entire team after Thursday's disappointing fixture: Does Chelsea lack creativity as they did last season, or is the team still getting on the same page with one another?
Villas-Boas, who has already stated that he will use the tour as an evaluative period before entering the transfer market, will have a hard time determining the answer to that question.
One of the bigger problems in Chelsea's hard-earned win in the tour opener was the lack of creativity in the midfield. The problem plagued the Blues last season, and has yet to be addressed in the summer transfer market. With Michael Essien out for six months, the urgency to sign Spurs midfielder Luka Modric has only risen.
Modric would fit in perfectly along side Lampard in the middle. Not only will he help link the back and front lines, but Modric will also take a lot of the play-making pressure off Frank Lampard, who has been slowed by his age and injuries over the last year.
If Yossi Benayoun can stay healthy and John Obi-Mikel can take a step forward, Chelsea should be able to weather the midfield storm until Essien is able to return to the side—that is, if he is able to return.
Then there is the question of the two Frenchmen in Chelsea's frontline: Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka. Villas-Boas must decide by the end of the tour whether or not to go forward with the two on board, or if he has to look for replacements elsewhere. Anelka seems the most likely to go, especially if the Blues can bag Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, who has been likened to a young Drogba.
One of the more encouraging signs from the 1-0 victory was the organization in the back. Aside from a couple mistakes on the ball, the back four was physically overpowering and extremely calm in winning the ball back in the box. But that is nothing new after another stellar season by John Terry and company. And the defense will look even better after David Luiz returns from Copa America.
But the back four's excellence will mean nothing if the offense remains disjointed. The onus will be on Villas-Boas to find the right combination of players, transfers and tactics in order to get the offense clicking and to get Chelsea back to the top of the table.