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Chelsea’s Semi-Merry Christmas

Blues have to make do with 1 – 1 draw at Tottenham

Well, it could have been worse.  As the match commentators reminded us approximately one hundred times before kickoff, a loss would have certainly killed off the season for Chelsea.  So the Blues’ title hopes are still alive – via life support to be certain – but alive nonetheless.  If only those pesky Manchesters would help us out with some internal meltdowns or something, maybe we could make some headway in the league.

The Spurs game started ugly for Chelsea.  Spurs were frighteningly dominant for the first ten minutes, making Chelsea look like a college team.  Spurs were aggressive, fast, really going for the jugular, while Chelsea looked utterly lethargic.  I actually began to wonder if Chelsea critics have been right all season – that maybe Chelsea is holding on to the past in its player selection, that perhaps they need a complete makeover.  But then, midway through the first half, Ashley Cole slices a perfect cross through the box, which Sturridge calmly volleyed in to tie the game.  That’s the second game in a row Cole’s pinpoint service has resulted in a goal.  Just a few minutes later, Drogba smashed a half-volley into the post from a tough angle.  I flailed and groaned from my living room perch.  Somehow, Chelsea clawed their way back into the game and looked like the more threatening team.

Ivanovic had to leave the game with a tweaked hammy just after the half hour mark.  I thought Chelsea was toast at that point.  Bosingwa slid over to share center back duties with Terry, and who was that entering the game… Paulo Ferreira?  Sorry Paulo, I almost forgot you were over there!  It was his first Premier League game of the season.  I fretted that Paulo’s lack of game time would spell rustiness and leaky defense.  I was wrong.  Paulo had a heck of a game, shutting down his wing corridor quite nicely.

To start the second half, Chelsea looked like a different team, suddenly dominating possession, and shooting at will.  Only problem with the at-will shooting was that it was absolutely horrible and completely wasteful!  Ferreira, Ramires, Meireles, and Sturridge all scattered useless blasts into the seats within a few minutes of each other.

Unfortunately, those early second half chances did not facilitate additional chances.  The high-octane match slowed to a simmer after about seventy minutes.  Torres replaced Drogba for the last fifteen minutes and was typically invisible.  Man I wish he would snap out of it!  I’m tired of the same old media commentary about Torres.  He needs some starts and he needs to play ninety minutes.  And he needs to be locked in a room daily with a top sports psychologist.  This is looking increasingly like a rebuilding year for Chelsea, so AVB needs to get Torres in there and start assessing whether or not he’s going to be part of the Blues master plan moving forward.  Speaking of the master plan, where was Lampard today?  I disagree with him not starting.  I’m growing skeptical of AVB’s choices lately.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for a few more games, but he definitely looks iffy at the moment.

So Chelsea just got a point for Christmas.  Certainly better than the lump of coal a loss would have been, but not as merry and bright a holiday as Blues fans had hoped for.  At least we won’t have to wait long for the next points opportunity – the day after Christmas it’s on against Fulham.  I’ll be traveling for the holidays to visit family, and will be watching the game (on TV) with my brother who happens to be a Fulham fan.  Good times.  Family, food, and soccer – sounds like a pretty good holiday!

What do you think about Villas-Boas’ lineup choices recently?

That’s What I Like About Blues

Chelsea rebound with 3 – 0 victory over Wolves

Whew!  Finally – a nice stroll in the park Chelsea win for a change.  After the tumultuous past two matches, it was a relief for Chelsea fans to enjoy a relatively stress-free match.  In fact, the win over Wolves was precisely what yours truly suggested in my last post – multiple goals and a clean sheet.  Nice to know the club was listening.

The goals came from Terry, Sturridge, and Mata – all in the first half.  Chelsea got off to a more aggressive start than we’ve seen recently.  They looked sharper and more focused overall.  It was gratifying to see them maintain that focus for the full ninety and preserve their third shutout of the Premier League season.

Despite looking better the Blues offensive buildup is still on the slow side.  Generally, they give defenses too much time to settle in, which has often neutralized Drogba and Torres this season.  Speaking of, Drogba had several flashes of brilliance today but still looks a bit rusty.  He even seemed lazy on occasion, when some hustle would’ve yielded better positioning.  As for Torres, his continues to be a very disappointing situation.  The sad and surprising (considering how great he was at Liverpool) thing is that he is not missed when he’s left out of the Chelsea lineup.  They actually don’t need him right now.  Sturridge and Mata excel without him.  I would still like to see Torres become a great Chelsea player, but I completely understand AVB’s reluctance to play him lately.

Two reasons Chelsea looked so much better today were the contributions of Ramires and Ashley Cole.  Ramires was oddly silent during the Bayer Leverkusen game, but was back in form today, creating space and opportunity with his speed and endurance.  Cole continues to be an absolutely essential wingman for Chelsea – very consistent in the back and a constant threat going forward.  He was definitely missed during the Bayer Leverkusen game (due to a minor ankle injury).

It may have been slightly disappointing that Chelsea didn’t convert any of their second half scoring chances, but with no major defensive mistakes, the win will be a good morale booster.  The Blues took care of business today – an absolute must considering all the challenging matches leading up to Christmas!

What must Chelsea do to maintain momentum following the Wolves win?

What is Going On With the Blues?

Chelsea looks terrible in 2 – 1 Champions League loss to Bayer Leverkusen

This is going to be a bit of a rant.  Can’t help it.  I’m a fed up fan.  Also a spoiled fan, I realize.  After all, lots of teams lose a lot more often than Chelsea.  But Chelsea is so much better than this!  At least I thought they were.  Today’s 2 – 1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen, on the heels of Sunday’s 2 – 1 loss to Liverpool (which was similarly flushed away late in the match), was absolutely ridiculous.

There I was, trying to enjoy a much-needed Thanksgiving break; all settled in to watch Chelsea take on Bayer Leverkusen live (from my living room couch).  I was still smarting from that annoying Liverpool loss, but had been pumped up for the Bayer match by all the tough talk emanating from the Chelsea camp the past couple days.  AVB defending his defense.  Malouda saying “excuses are for losers”.  Exactly the sorts of things fans need to hear after a miserable loss.

Then, Chelsea comes out completely flat against Bayer.  Fortunately for the Blues, Bayer was also flat; otherwise the game might’ve been out of reach for Chelsea by halftime.  After the Liverpool humiliation I expected Chelsea to open with guns blazing.  Instead, they could barely string together a pass in the first half.  I haven’t looked up any official stats to prove it, but it seemed like Chelsea had more giveaways than any other first half this season.  Chelsea showed no fighting spirit out of the gate.  Where was the hunger?

Chelsea had several shots toward the end of the first half with no heat on them and each right to the goalkeeper.  The Blues’ vibe about such chances seems to be that the misses are no big deal, that plenty more will be created.  But these missed opportunities can’t be shrugged off – they are repeatedly preventing victories!  Chelsea demonstrated a complete lack of urgency today.  You knew one goal would not be enough to hold off Bayer on their home turf, and yet Chelsea played like one goal was plenty.  Daniel Sturridge was the only Blue who showed steady energy and desire.  He initiated Chelsea’s best scoring chances of the match.

I understand it is AVB’s job to take a level-headed, measured approach to “fixing” things.  Managers can’t react like fans.  But where is the passion on the field?  It’s time for the players to get a little mad and not take it anymore (losing that is).  I wish AVB would do something unexpected and unconventional, like start benching some veterans in favor of hungry youth (bench Torres and Drogba and give Lukaku a shot).  Things just aren’t working right now.  The season is quickly slipping away on the two primary competition fronts.  It’s time to shake things up!

The current slump is officially worse than last season’s.  This is the Blues’ moment of truth.  Chelsea must respond in a big way Saturday against Wolves (multiple goals and a clean sheet would be great place to start) or the Premier League season truly will be over for them!

What should Chelsea do to climb out of this slump?  Feel free to offer advice below…