Stoke vs. Chelsea: 6 Things Andre Villas-Boas Got Wrong in Blues Opener
For Chelsea fans, the nervous excitement that always goes hand in hand with the start of the season may have been quelled by a lacklustre display against Stoke.
It was a tough test for Andre Villas-Boas in his first competitive outing as Chelsea boss and the Blues were only able to scrape a 0-0 draw.
Chelsea fans' disappointment will only have been exacerbated by the flair with which the two Manchester clubs eased to victory.
But the Portuguese mastermind will have come away from that game with a new knowledge of his team and new ideas on how to improve.
Here are six points that Villas-Boas got wrong and will need to correct before Chelsea face West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Should Not Have Started with Kalou and Malouda
I understand that the brightest spark of the preseason, Daniel Sturridge, was suspended, but to utilize Salomon Kalou and Florent Malouda as wingers was not the best idea.
Kalou lacks the touch and the discipline to consistently cause problems for opposition defences, whereas Malouda always has a tendency to drop back into central midfield, isolating the striker.
Both of them were disappointing for the second half of last campaign and neither of them ever looked dangerous during the match.
When Anelka came on he caused more problems than either Malouda or Kalou did in a matter of minutes and actually stuck to his position.
There are rumours that Chelsea are considering signing Juan Manuel Mata to provide more natural width and, from the looks of Sunday's match, this would be a good call.
Should Have Played a System That Allowed Torres More Support
By extension of my last point, Malouda and Kalou's unwillingness to stick to their positions mean that Torres was isolated on more than one occasion.
Ramires and Lampard will always bust a gut to get into the opposition penalty area, but Torres needed more creative players that he could link up with in and around the danger area.
The Spaniard's performance was one of the brighter points for Chelsea as Torres finally looked something like his old self.
However, for large parts of the match he was playing up front on his own against a solid Stoke defence and looked in need of a partner.
Should Have Brought Drogba and Anelka on Earlier
One way to rectify this would have been to bring on Drogba and Anelka much earlier.
They could have linked up with Torres much more effectively and both are also very dangerous in front of goal.
Anelka came the closest to finding the net for Chelsea in the second half and Drogba looked threatening from a couple of dead-ball situations.
The fact that Drogba, especially, was only given 15 minutes or so to make a difference strikes me as slightly unfair.
Should Have Opted for More Creativity in Midfield
Chelsea needed a creative midfield player on Sunday that had the ability to unlock the Stoke defence with a piercing pass or a moment of magic.
This is why the club have been pursuing Luka Modric with such determination, but Benayoun could have been given an opportunity yesterday.
The Israeli playmaker was good in preseason and, although Ramires always covers the ground, Yossi's touch and vision may have made more of a difference.
Should Have Changed Tactics at Half Time
When it became clear that Stoke were going to prove very difficult to break down with their robust and tough-tackling approach, Villas-Boas should have changed tack.
The system was not functioning well enough to cause Stoke any real problems and the manager's tactical prowess should have come into play.
It is always important to mix things up just to keep the opposition on their toes. A switch from 4-5-1 to 4-3-3, with Drogba and Anelka up front with Torres, just might have done the trick.
Should Have Taken More Risks with Selection
Everyone thought that the appointment of Villas-Boas was a gamble based on his youth and his reputation for attacking the football.
He managed to bring out the best in Porto by playing a fluid brand of attacking football that attempted to mirror the short-passing style of Barcelona.
Chelsea seemed to have the same problems on Sunday that they dealt with last season—with the same system recycled from the days of Ancelotti.
If Villas-Boas had been more willing to take risks by implementing a new system that brought out the best in his players in an attacking sense, the floodgates could have opened.
But we also have to bear in mind that it is very difficult to tell at this stage of the season how things will go, and it seems there are still players to be signed.
If Villas-Boas is allowed to sign a couple of quality players then maybe he will have more freedom to stamp his tactical mark on proceedings.