Chelsea FC : 5 Lessons Learnt from One of the Worst Performances This Season
As Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech accepted in his own words, "At the moment of the shot, I didn't see the ball at all".
That was enough to undo Chelsea's hard work in the past three weeks. The match against Wigan was seen as a net practice for their midweek crunch derby against Tottenham. But what Chelsea displayed at DW Stadium against Wigan was nowhere near impressive.
Chelsea not only conceded a late equaliser, but also might have conceded their title challenges. With wins for both Manchester clubs on Sunday, the Blues moved further away from their title hopes. Moreover, derby rivals Tottenham scored a morale victory by leapfrogging Chelsea to third place in the league position having a game in hand.
The win against Manchester City had showed some deficiencies in the present Chelsea squad, but Saturday's stale draw exposed those problems glaringly.
In the following slides, we shall take a look into the five lessons learnt from Chelsea's lacklustre performance against an inspired Latics side.
Ramires Is Vital for Chelsea
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Chelsea visibly lacked creativity and pace in the midfield on Saturday.
Mata had a rare off day as the in-form Spaniard failed to overcome Wigan's three man defence. Frank Lampard, who had publicly expressed his displeasure at being left out of the squad against Manchester City, was given a start, but the aging midfield maestro failed to impress being a mere spectator rather than a doer. His poor displays only underlined the reason for his failing to keep a first team slot. Raul Meireles was average at best and lacked the creativity to break open a disciplined Wigan defense.
The poor performance from the Chelsea midfield made Ramires' absence all the more glaring. The Brazilian has been in peak form recently. His tremendous power combined with his dribbling skills has made him a vital player in Villas-Boas' evolving Chelsea squad. He has been like the horsepower for the team keeping up the tempo all through a match with his unending running around the pitch.
Against Wigan on Saturday, it was all the more evident. With Ramires on the bench suffering from a bruised knee, Chelsea seemed too slow. The Chelsea midfield lacked the tempo and pace associated with Ramires, which in turn, helped Wigan maintain their defensive discipline very well. Chelsea's movement and creativity from previous matches were lacking with Ramires absent, and that finally resulted in Chelsea settling with a poor draw instead of a high-scoring win.
Villas-Boas must ensure to keep his in-form midfielder at bay from injuries, as his long-term absence could seriously hamper Chelsea's bid for their fourth Premier League title as well as debut European crown.
Torres' Chelsea Future Is Doomed
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With reports emerging last week that Chelsea were prepared to sell off their misfiring £50-million striker, manager Andre Villas-Boas rubbished the news in his own words : "It's not true, he is not available at any price,"
El Nino has been in dismal form since his arrival for the Blues last January, scoring only thrice during his almost one-year stay. The Spaniard's confidence has been done no good, with Didier Drogba grabbing the starting 11 spot from him with an impressive run in the last few weeks. With youngster Daniel Sturridge too in peak form, Torres has seen his role at Chelsea reduced to that of a bench-warmer and signing autographs.
With increasing voices in and around Stamford Bridge demanding that the expensive flop be offloaded, Villas-Boas came out strong defending his star striker. His statement gave a gleam of hope that Torres has the backing of his manager and could start out against Wigan on Saturday to try and resurrect his falling career.
But with Villas-Boas not risking Torres and instead using the in-form Drogba against Wigan has seriously cast a doubt on Torres' future. The decision to leave out El Nino from the action at DW Stadium also underlined the fact that Villas-Boas was not himself very confident of the Spaniard.
The death knell was already ringing on his Chelsea career, and AVB's decision might well have started ringing it all the more loudly. The start of February could very well see him donning jersey in some other club if the continued snubbing is carried on.
Chelsea's Attack Needs to Improve Drastically
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Chelsea's biggest trouble this season has been the lack of strikers who can score goals galore similar to the ones their rivals possess.
Chelsea are missing a player like Van Persie or Aguero, someone who can guarantee a steady flow of goals. Their cause has not been helped by the fact that their 50 million forward is in such dismal form that the manager cannot risk playing him.
As regards to Drogba, age has robbed the player of both pace and skill. The fiery Ivorian is no more the threat he used to be for opposition defenses. Only youngster Daniel Sturridge has been in top gear, scoring goals on a consistent basis.
The dearth of players with serious goal-scoring capabilities was all the more highlighted when Chelsea failed to score more than a goal against a Wigan defense that had conceded at an average of three goals per game in the last four fixtures. Chelsea looked lazy and bereft of ideas to overcome the Latics' not-so-impressive defense, which ultimately cost them two vital points and could very well be the reason for losing out on the title race.
The match against Wigan eye poked Villas-Boas about the serious problems in the Chelsea attack. With only Sturridge as the only striker in form and Drogba and Kalou set to leave for African Nations Cup duty next month, Chelsea need to get a striker and get it fast. Failure to get a top class in-form striker will be severely damaging for Chelsea's domestic and European dreams.
Villas-Boas Needs to Hone His Tactical Skills a Bit
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When Chelsea hired the young, inexperienced but hugely successful Andre Villas-Boas as their manager, several people doubted his ability to manage a team of Chelsea's stature.
With Chelsea faltering time and again this season, the doubters have raised their concerns again over the the tactical ability of Villas-Boas to compete with the likes of Sir Alex, Wenger or Mancini(all veterans in their fields).
So far, Villas-Boas has not been very impressive as regards his tactics. His wish for playing a high defensive line was met with defeats, and only reverting back to old methods helped Chelsea claw back their way in the league table. Some of his substitution decisions have seemed ill-advised, too.
Against Wigan, his failure to read between the lines cost Chelsea dearly. In a match against a relegation fighting side, Villas-Boas seemed satisfied with only the solitary goal that Sturridge scored. His tactics suggested he was done with that one goal lead, whereas he could have employed more attacking tactics to end off the game with a few more.
While an attacking tactic would have broke open Wigan's fragile defense, Villas-Boas' decision to defend gave the Latics time to gather up and take the game to Chelsea. His decision to replace the in-form Sturridge with the rusty Malouda looked all the more foolish. Sturridge was constantly being a threat to the Wigan defense with his powerful run-ins. So when he was taken off, Wigan got bolder, which finally resulted in the equaliser.
It is time for Villas-Boas to get his tactics right, since anymore slip-ups could end his squad's title hopes earlier than expected. It has been quite sometime, and the young manager needs to decide the best tactics for his team at the earliest.
If AVB Wants to Win Trophies, Spending Is Surely Needed in January
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Villas-Boas was expected to be the manager who would bring the revolution in the Chelsea squad. He was expected to bring in younger players and refresh his aging squad. But the 34-year-old just signed Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and Oriol Romeu in the summer stating that the rest of his squad had the ability to fight for the league title.
In the past four months after the start of the new season, there is no doubt left that Villas-Boas' faith in his aging squad was misplaced. The team has been average at best so far, with most of the aged players being out of sync. With the exception of John Terry, every other older player has lost his place in the starting 11.
Villas-Boas too needs to understand that this team cannot overcome the fight till the end of the season, and if he really wishes to win something in his debut season much changes need to be done, starting with the winter transfer window.
Chelsea needs to sign at least one right back, a visible weak link in Chelsea's defensive armoury given the inconsistent performance of Jose Bosignwa. Chelsea have looked a lot more creative this season in their midfield compared to last season with the addition of Raul Meireles and Juan Mata. But they still lack a world-class quality player in the middle of the park to make those unstoppable passes and occasional flicks to create chances out of the blue. But their most important need at the moment is a striker who is among the leaders in goals.
Chelsea looked to have been back on track with a hat trick of wins, but Saturday's slip-up exposed their weaknesses once more. It is being expected that the Blues will be active in January with a couple of signings expected.
With the Blues facing a stiff fixture in the Champions League, Villas-Boas needs to bolster his squad's weaknesses at the earliest, or this season could well end up to be his last at West London.