With less than 4 days until the start of the Premier League, Chelsea go into the new season far from convincing with several questions unanswered
It has been a week since I last posted an article but after 2 'friendlies' against Brighton and Manchester City in the Community Shield, I deem it necessary to give an update on the season ahead. On 4th August, we played Brighton in a friendly down at the Amex Community Stadium in Falmer. The highlight of the game: a guard of honor by the Brighton players. The game left a lot to be desired. A team which consisted of: Cech, Cole, Cahill, Terry, Ivanovic, Mikel, Lampard, Ramires, Hazard, Meireles, Torres could barely string two passes to each other.
The lack of concentration was very evident in the first 30 minutes and although we opened the scoring after a clever dummy by Torres slotted by Lampard, the walls caved in. Barely 3 minutes later, Brighton had equalised and having watched the replay again, a one point there are 2 Brighton players surrounded by 5 Chelsea players yet still managed to score, this lack of concentration would re-appear before the half-time whistle. Meireles being Meireles successfully hoofed the ball into the air but attempted it again to prevent a thrown-in but inadvertently miscontrolled his volley leaving Brighton to attack and score another. 2 goals conceded. 2 moments of lack of concentration. The second half passed with much incidence but with 7 minutes left Brighton scored again after Luiz was clearly elbowed in the face with the referee about to blow for a free-kick decided to play on to pave the way for Vicente to score his 2nd goal of the afternoon. A disappointing afternoon where very little link up play was on show but it was important for the players to get minutes under their belts.
A week on from our outing on the South coast, a grudge match was on the horizon. The curtain raiser with the Champions of England playing the FA Cup holders in what was to be a feisty game considering the FA do not class this as ' a 1st class game'. The game started with Man City showing they had had played 3 more pre-season games than Chelsea but it was Chelsea who opened the score line after quick feet from Ramires to feed Torres who finished with a delightful chip over Pantilimon. A typical Torres goal and finish, something we've only seen glimpses of at Chelsea but now with Drogba gone he is now the main man upfront. 1-0 up against the Champions of England and then came the game changer, Ivanovic went sliding in on his fellow Serbian, Kolorov, with Kevin Friend brandishing the first redcard of the season. Since then, the FA have stated that because the Community Shield is not seen as a '1st class match' the 3 game suspension will be revoked and therefore Ivanovic can play at Wigan this Sunday.
Man City came out for the 2nd half and hit another gear instantly, after a poor clearance from Terry, the ball fell to Yaya Youre who wrapped his foot around the ball into the bottom corner to equalise after 53 minutes. It was only 6 minutes later, Tevez got the ball on the left and drifted centrally before he unleashed a curling thunderbolt of a shot past the hapless Cech to give City the lead. Chelsea were on the edge and the tackles began to fly in from left right and centre. City increased their lead by taking advantage of Chelsea's right hand side with one less defender and Nasri slotted a Kolorov cross at the near post to give City a 3-1 lead with 25 minute still remaining. Changes were made on both sides but it was Chelsea's substitutes who made the biggest difference. Sturridge and Bertrand injected the much need pace into the game especially with tired legs on the Villa Park pitch. A good one two between Torres and Sturridge led to a shot from the Englishman but having done nothing except pick the ball from Torre's goal, Pantilimon spilt the shot straight into Bertrand's direction to score his first Chelsea goal. Was the comeback on? No. City simply kept the ball with the one man advantage and had several chances to finish the game. So Man City won the curtain raiser and it was deserved. They kept the ball better and at the highest level it is imperative, whereas Chelsea created very few chances but there were signs of more linking up play between Torres and Hazard.
So what needs improving?
Our defence and central midfield. I am not worried about the few chances we are creating because the ones we are creating we are taking them and there is Mata, Oscar, Hazard, Torres and Marin all still to meet one another let alone training together and get the tactics right. A right back who is competing with Ivanovic is important now as Ferreira (33) is in the last year of his contract and Sam Hutchinson is more than likely moving on loan this week leaving us exposed at RB. Azpilicueta seems the 1st choice and a deal could be agreed later this week. The position which is worrying me badly is in CM. I am not a fan of Meireles, a player who seems more effective for Portugal than for his clubs he's played for. Essien, my favourite player of all time will never fully recover from 3 ACLs crippling his ability to go on his powerful serges. Mikel still baffles me. One minute he is Chelsea's best player on the pitch in the CL Final and the next minute he can't even pass 5 yards to his own team-mates. Again a sign of lack of concentration perhaps?
A player who has interested me for the past 2 years. He left Liege last summer for Benfica in a deal reported to be around €9m. He impressed me in both games against Manchester United in the CL Group Stage last year and also against Chelsea in the Quarter Finals in April particularly at Stamford Bridge. His reported buy-out clause is €40m, however, Benfica do have the tendency to over exaggerate their players' transfer fee. If Chelsea were interested in Witsel, a fee around the €20m would not be turned down by Benfica to more than double their profit after one season. For those who don't know much about Witsel, he is a central midfielder who has the capabilities to defend but also push forward to score and create assists. He may not be in the class of Moutinho who he plays alongside with but he has a very good touch, can run with the ball and possesses excellent link up ability. Something we are lacking greatly.
Benfica and Belgian International Axel Witsel