Monthly Archives: February 2012
Chelsea lives to fight another day with 3-0 defeat of Bolton
After a slow but safe first half, the Blues came out of their shell early in the second half as David Luiz curled a sweet shot past Bolton’s baby-faced keeper. Critics have often (unfairly) made Luiz the fall guy for Chelsea’s defensive woes this season, but he played a relatively conservative game Saturday, choosing his forward romps wisely, none more so than the one that opened Chelsea’s scoring. Chelsea’s defense was less leaky overall and Bolton never seemed very threatening.
On the offensive front, the Blues still tried to squeeze too many passes into low percentage situations (Luiz was guilty of this via multiple long-balls from the back). In the first half, Chelsea also continued their trend of faulty finishing. They too often play as if theses chances will materialize indefinitely. But after the break, they firmed things up in front of goal, with Drogba and Lampard adding an additional vintage goal each. For all the talk about Lampard’s age this season – and considering how many times AVB has left him out of the starting eleven – it’s ironic that Frank is the Blues’ leading scorer this season. Lampard’s not through yet, and especially with Terry out injured, he should start every game for the rest of the season as Chelsea’s captain. He has earned it!
So, looks like AVB will get to keep his office at least another week or so. As he should. Perhaps he was too inexperienced to be given the Chelsea job, but he’s certainly paying his dues this season. Maybe he’s made some mistakes, but I’ve advocated patience from the start. Chelsea needs stability, and changing managers again, especially during the season, would be an unnecessary setback.
What do you think – would Chelsea benefit from yet another managerial change?
Chelsea continues dreadful form in 3-1 loss at Napoli
I thought the 2-0 loss at Everton a couple weeks ago was the low point of Chelsea’s season. The team looked absolutely lifeless. Most disturbingly, they showed no fighting spirit. Everton looked exactly the way I wish the Blues would – aggressive, hungry, and energetic. After the Everton match, the rumor mill kicked into high gear about Chelsea locker room turmoil and especially how long it would be until AVB gets shown the door. I was going to explore all that in the wake of the Everton match but it was too depressing. Chelsea looked so bad it was hard to know where to start. Plus, I had my hands full at my day job as my soccer team made it to our state’s final four playoffs (alas, we lost in the championship game). So I decided to wait it out, hoping for a Blues turnaround in the FA Cup against Birmingham City and in their Champions League visit to Napoli. Guess I shouldn’t have waited it out.
For now, I’ll skip over the 1-1 draw with Birmingham in the FA Cup. I mean, it’s bad enough, but at least they get to try again in the replay. The Napoli game this past Tuesday was terrible. Except for the few minutes Chelsea was up 1-0 in the first half, they never looked like they might win. What is it about every team Chelsea faces this year getting one or two players to slip in behind the Blues defense? It happens every game, usually more than once. It’s maddening! Even worst, Chelsea very rarely generates similar opportunities. To be sure, Chelsea still owns the middle of the field, but in the final third, the Blues are completely predictable. Savvy opponents just cram the box and are content to let Chelsea pass around the perimeter until someone gets impatient and lobs a ball into the middle where one or two Blues are surrounded by an army of defenders! Even the slippery Sturridge who was so effective earlier in the season is going through a dry, bland spell.
Some pundits are questioning AVB’s starting lineup choices against Napoli, but that’s not the reason Chelsea tanked. The Blues just didn’t play well. They haven’t played well for about two-thirds of the season. Champions League play was the last hope for Chelsea to take this season’s lemons and make lemonade. Now they’re hanging on by the thinnest of threads in all competitions. Poor AVB is probably on his way out, and like Carlo Ancelotti last season, it’s not all his fault.
With each week of the season my expectations for Chelsea slip further. Now it’s starting to look like the most they have to play for is a Champions League slot for next season. It’s a grim time for Chelsea fans, but tomorrow’s a new day. Maybe a big win over Bolton will bring some much-needed hope!
Referee assists Chelsea in squandering three-goal lead
It was basically sickening on Sunday. As soon as Rooney predictably rammed home his second PK of the afternoon I knew the match would end in a draw. Even though Chelsea still led 3-2 at that point, I’ve been around the soccer block too many times to think that the Blues would actually be able to hold off Manchester United for the rest of the match. I was right. Javier Hernandez, that little Man U rascal who is incomprehensibly allowed to wear his cutesy nickname on the back of his jersey rather than his real name, tied the game with a wickedly timed run and header. I hate that I’ve turned into a Chelsea version of a Chicago Cubs fan this season, but Chelsea has choked a few too many times this campaign to retain much optimism in big games (or little ones actually).
What makes last Sunday’s 3-3 draw all the more painful is that for the first hour or so things were falling into place so beautifully! Sturridge showing some speedy signs of life and scoring the opening goal (so what if it was officially a Red Devil own goal?). Then Juan Mata’s hair-raising volley smash on the end of Torres’ cross to kick off the second half! Then David Luiz’s well-timed header goal just moments later! It was all too good to be true.
About those PKs against Chelsea… the first one was probably deserved. Sturridge got a little over-zealous. But the second one against Ivanovic a few minutes later was a ridiculous call! It wasn’t a penalty. Normally I think Howard Webb is one of the world’s better refs. And I don’t envy anyone who has to attempt to officiate matches as big as this one. But Webb had a very off day. Besides the penalty decisions he was wildly inconsistent all afternoon, toward both sides. Top-flight soccer simply must have instant replay for calls inside the penalty box.
I saw the Man U game as a last opportunity to rescue Chelsea’s dismal season – that maybe a victory would spark some life into the sputtering squad and help ensure they at least retain a Champions League spot for next season. Now, the forecast is still very uncertain. They will have to scrap for every remaining point.
Adding to the on-field woes is the recent chatter about locker room disharmony and players having issues with AVB. Piled on top of that are the rather ridiculous rumors (or are they?) of Jose Mourinho wanting to return to Chelsea. What a mess! It would be a mistake to dismiss AVB this early. He’s made some iffy calls along the way, but it’s not his fault the season has gone so poorly (just like Carlo Ancelotti shouldn’t have been blamed for last season’s shortcomings). I don’t know that Mourinho would be able to turn things around any more effectively. Chelsea needs stability right now. They should give AVB two more seasons before reassessing.
What do you think about Andre Villas-Boas’ management this season? Should he be given more time? Feel free to weigh in below…