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Good Times!

Chelsea beats Liverpool 2-1 in FA Cup Final

Liverpool looked like the Chelsea of a few months ago – which isn’t a compliment – in Saturday’s FA Cup Final.  Chelsea wasn’t fantastic, but they were more than good enough to claim their seventh FA Cup title in club history.

Ramires (who scored first for Chelsea in the 10th minute) has poured it on in recent weeks.  He seems to be hitting his stride right now – fantastic at open field runs with the ball, and much more efficient at finishing than he was earlier in the season.  Chelsea was wise to secure Ramires in a long-term deal this year, as he looks likely to be a key player for the club in the next several seasons.

Drogba added the Blues’ second goal in the 51st minute.  The guy is a clutch performer.  Chelsea will need him to show up in a major way in the Champions League final.  He just knows how to get the job done when a lot is at stake.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t be in favor of resting him so much between matches as Di Matteo has preferred lately, however, the extra rest hasn’t seemed to rust Drogba at all.  I’d really like to see Torres paired up front more with Drogba as opposed to this constant either/or situation.  For the Munich Final, Torres could get plenty of crosses in to Drogba as well as free up some space for him by pulling defenders out of the middle where Drogba usually lurks.

Petr Cech has also improved over the past couple months.  It’s easy to take Cech for granted because he’s been so consistently good for Chelsea for several years.  This hasn’t been a strong season for Cech overall, but like a true pro, he has upped his game at crucial times for the club recently.  His saves were huge in keeping Barcelona at bay in the Champions League semis, and Saturday’s point-blank deflection of Andy Carroll’s header late in the match preserved Chelsea’s lead and ultimately led to their fourth FA Cup title in six years.

Chelsea’s FA Cup triumph is a nice consolation of sorts for what has been a stinky Premier League season for the club.  It’s also another important confidence booster ahead of the Champions League Final on May 19.  Can’t wait for that one!

Who do you think were Chelsea’s key performers in the FA Cup win over Liverpool?

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Dismal Blues Part 2

Why Chelsea’s oldest players aren’t the club’s main problem

The popular jab at Chelsea all season has been the collective age of their players – that they’re too old to hack it anymore and that wholesale changes are needed.  Critics may be right about the wholesale changes part, but Chelsea’s aged players aren’t the primary problem.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Wigan and Fulham matches were a real beat-down for this fan even though Chelsea beat Wigan and tied Fulham.  I guess having two matches so close together just magnified the aspects of Chelsea’s play – and the players – that have annoyed most of the season.  I didn’t have a week between games to forget the team’s problems and become an optimist again.

I hate to pick on Fernando Torres first (because he has been drubbed by critics throughout his year and a half at Chelsea) but my fan patience has expired with him.  I like the guy, have rooted for him to succeed, and wish he would be a Chelsea superstar.  But if it hasn’t happened by now, it’s probably not going to happen.  His is a particularly frustrating case because you can see potential there, but it’s never realized beyond occasionally sharp passes and crosses.  He works hard, but the effort rarely pays off with shots on goal (or goals period).  Torres takes overly long strides with the ball, predictably barreling straight at defenders, in a halting style that yields constant turnovers.  Didier Drogba on the other hand, while not having his best season, is much more threatening with the ball (he’s also Chelsea’s second highest scorer this season).  He still causes problems for defenders – Torres does not.  Drogba has been woefully underused this season, presumably in an effort to get Torres out of his slump and fully integrated with the team.  It’s not working.  Drogba needs to start every remaining game.  I don’t know what he’s being saved for at this point, as every game is critical.  Torres seems like a decent guy, but for the club’s sake he should be sold.

While I’m thinking about forwards, it’s also time for Salomon Kalou to go.  Kalou has never quite clicked over to the consistency Chelsea needs.  I appreciate that he has earned some extra late season game time by virtue of his Champions League goal at Benfica, but he’s done nothing since to merit this much pitch time.  Kalou makes too many ill-timed passes and often holds onto the ball too long.

Daniel Sturridge should start every game at forward with Drogba.  Sturridge has been the victim of too much lineup tinkering the past few months, which stifled the hunger and goal-scoring savvy he demonstrated early in the season.

At midfield, critics have been cranky toward Frank Lampard because of his age (33) but Lampard is the team’s top scorer this season!  That despite playing less than he ever has at Chelsea.  Lampard has occasional giveaways and unwise fouls, but he isn’t the weakest link in the Blues’ midfield.  Raul Meireles is.  I’ve never been thrilled by Chelsea’s acquisition of Meireles.  His passing is average, he fouls too much, and his shooting is atrocious (no, I’m not forgetting his end-of-match blast against Benfica).  He’s just not reliable enough.  I’d much rather see Michael Essien (who’s still only 29) back as the consistent midfield commander.

Ramires has also annoyed lately.  He’s in danger of falling into the Kalou category of not quite good enough.  I love his tireless hustle, but it doesn’t make up for his awful amount of turnovers!  I’m not ready to throw in the towel on him yet, but he needs some goals or assists to boost his stock.

It’s time for Chelsea to revamp, but getting rid of Terry, Lampard, and Drogba isn’t the answer.  Those three are no longer in their prime, but Chelsea is still better when they’re on the pitch (or at least no worse).  Why would a team get rid of those assets (their top two scorers this season in Lampard and Drogba) as long as they’re still healthy?

When this season began, it seemed Chelsea was in the process of integrating young players with the “old”.  What happened to Romelu Lukaku and Oriol Romeu?  We saw Romeu quite a bit before Christmas, but I don’t understand why the heavily touted Lukaku hasn’t been granted more run-outs.

This off-season, Chelsea needs to take the long-haul approach to rebuilding, which means no more mid-career, Torres-type acquisitions.  Instead, they need to milk the remaining seasons from their veterans while weaving in dynamic youngsters.  Youth is the ticket!  That strategy may not yield immediate trophies, but the delayed gratification would be worth it.

What players do you think Chelsea should relinquish this summer?

Chump-ions League

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!

Is AVB to blame for Chelsea’s woes this season?

Why Always Man U?

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…

Goal-less Blues

Chelsea’s title hopes vanish with 0 – 0 draw against Norwich City

Chelsea is not a championship team this season.  There, I’ve said it.  Now I actually feel a bit better.  If admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, then I’m freely admitting it now on behalf of the Blues:  they cannot win the Premier League this season.  They can’t win any trophy this season playing the way they are.  They simply don’t have the confident, hungry look of the ‘09/10 EPL Champion Blues.  Not even close.  I held out hope through the fall and Christmas season that the team’s veterans would shake off whatever was ailing them, turn the corner on this season, and really grapple with the Manchesters for the title.  But this weekend’s 0 – 0 draw at Norwich City (coupled with the Manchesters winning their Sunday matches) made it official – at fourteen points behind league-leading Manchester City, the title is out of reach.

I just don’t have confidence in Chelsea right now (and haven’t for most of the season).  I want to, but they’ve done nothing to instill any confidence.  Saturday’s game at Norwich was one of those maddening contests in which Chelsea didn’t play poorly at all – they dominated possession and generally dictated the pace – yet they couldn’t cope with that pesky little aspect of the game called scoring goals.

For all the players Chelsea get forward, it’s remarkable how unoriginal the attack was Saturday.  It usually consisted of crossing the ball in front of the goal where it could be headed away or cleared by one of the tall, tenacious Norwich City defenders.  On several occasions Chelsea didn’t even have anyone attacking the crossed ball.  Where’s the urgency?

I’ve ignored the Chelsea naysayers this season, stubbornly insisting that the Blues would turn the ship around in time.  Now I’m concerned the naysayers may be right.  I think it’s now officially a rebuilding year for the Blues.  So I should probably start treating it as such – try to just enjoy the games one at a time and forget about the EPL title for this season.  At least we’ve still got Champions League play (though I can’t realistically see Chelsea beating Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, or Barcelona at this point).  Maybe with the title pressure off I’ll be able to enjoy the games more and stop expecting wins every time out because it’s simply not going to happen this season.

What do you think – are Chelsea’s title hopes out of reach for this season?

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…

Seeing Red

Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes look bleak after loss to Liverpool

I had a bad feeling about yesterday’s game.  Chelsea has looked shaky lately.  The shakiness started with that ridiculous loss at QPR a month ago, then was exacerbated by the Arsenal-supplied thrashing, and followed by the weak Champions League draw at Genk.  All this in a season where Manchester City’s usually reliable meltdowns have yet to materialize, Man U beats everyone at will (except invincible Man City), and even Arsenal is suddenly unbeatable.  String those factors together with the momentum-killing international break and you have the recipe for a disastrous loss against a very tough Liverpool.  That was my fear going into yesterday’s game anyway.  My fear was unfortunately confirmed.

The 2 – 1 loss to Liverpool was one of those absolutely maddening games for fans.  One where you question why you care for any team or sport at all.  Throughout my life, my favorite teams in all sports have been the almost teams – good but never quite good enough.  There are probably some psychological insights to be mined as to why I always seem to favor almost-champions.  Whatever the reason, I’ve never been drawn to the Manchester Uniteds of sports.  I don’t know what it’s like to be able to kick back and enjoy domination.  That’s why Chelsea’s ‘09/10 title win was so fun – it was an anomaly for me as a fan – with goals and wins flowing easily.  But starting about this time last year, virtually every Chelsea game has seemed precarious.  Last season’s slump seemed like a passing storm, but this season’s slump is worse because it seems to be rooted in deeper team problems that I can’t fully identify.  At least with last season’s slump, first place was still in sight.  This season I’m already sweating the unthinkable… loss of a Champions League slot.

Against Liverpool the Blues once again dominated possession, and once again had nothing to show for it.  Possession is virtually worthless if it doesn’t produce legitimate scoring opportunities.  The most frustrating aspect of the match was another hallmark of my favorite teams over the years:  major mistakes (in this case defensive) that never seem to afflict opposing teams.  Defensive errors are killing Chelsea this season!  Liverpool had no such hiccups and therefore earned the win.  Fox Soccer analyst Warren Barton had an interesting post-game Chelsea analysis.  I hope he’s wrong about them, but I fear he’s right.

With things going so poorly for Chelsea domestically, it should be a relief that they’re still atop their Champions League group.  But even that is little consolation this season, because while they’ll most likely advance to the knockout stages, it is very difficult to see them getting past the likes of the Manchesters or Bayern Munich, not to mention Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Indeed, things aren’t looking up for Chelsea at the moment, but at least they – and we, the fans – don’t have to wait very long to begin righting the ship.  Wednesday it’s back to Champions League play at Bayer Leverkusen, then Saturday it’s home against Wolves.  Let’s hope these harsh recent losses inspire new resolve in the Blues!

Will Chelsea finish in the top four in the Premier League this season?

Blues Cruise

Chelsea enjoys 3 – 1 victory over Everton

It was good to see the Blues back in action after the lengthy international break.  I’m not much of a fan of the international breaks by the way.  I understand their necessity and I don’t have a better solution to offer, but I’d rather not have them interrupting the season.

Chelsea put in an excellent performance against Everton yesterday.  It was a mostly comfortable victory – one that actually reminded me of the ‘09/10 EPL title winning Blues.  This season’s Sunderland, Bolton, and Everton wins are reminiscent of Chelsea’s more dominant phases of the past several years.  Things are looking up.  If only they hadn’t let Man U get the better of them!

Conceding a late goal to Everton slightly marred the day.  Defensively, sometimes it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security with a three-goal lead, but Chelsea really needs to seal those leaks in preparation for tougher days ahead.  Petr Cech must be banging his padded noggin against his locker lamenting the lack of clean sheets this season.

One major confidence booster for Chelsea and its fans is the current lineup depth.  It sure is heartening to see the likes of Malouda and Anelka warming up as substitutes!  It’s an embarrassment of riches really.  I think Chelsea has the best depth in the league right now.  Look at the guys who weren’t playing yesterday:  Torres, Luiz, Alex, Meireles, Lukaku.  The TV cameras even gave us a glimpse of Michael Essien in the stands, still out with his knee injury.  Here’s hoping Essien can rejoin the squad for the second half of the season!

Other thoughts from the game…

Bosingwa has surprised and impressed me this year.  He has been quite a reliable right back from preseason on.  However, if I’m being picky, his crosses into the box, or pass selection at the end of positive runs down the wing, are often hasty and sloppy.

Hope Ramires’ knee injury suffered when netting Chelsea’s third goal just turns out to be a knock.  He has been Chelsea’s Energizer bunny this season and would be missed if he has to sit out long.  Ramires could turn into a long-term star for Chelsea.Juan Mata is looking like a genius signing thus far.  He is all over the field, offensively innovative, with great passing and deft ball handling.

Likewise, Daniel Sturridge continues to impress.  Chelsea needs to wrap him up with a long-term contract.

Drogba had a bit of an off day, but he’ll come around.  He was still involved through his strong physical presence and made several key passes.  I still think he should start alongside Torres once Fernando returns from his three-match red card ban.

It was a good weekend for Chelsea fans and a positive primer for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Genk!

Thoughts on Chelsea’s performance against Everton?  Feel free to share below…

Champions League Blues

Chelsea settles for a point against Valencia

I’m still smarting from Chelsea’s draw at Valencia in Wednesday’s Champions League group stage match.  Chelsea seemed in utter control of the game.  The Blues played well – not great – but their effort seemed to be more than enough to secure three points.  But they only got one point thanks to an 86th minute PK scored by Valencia after Kalou hand-balled on a Valencia corner.  Very frustrating.

Chelsea never should’ve been in danger of drawing as they had some seemingly easy scoring opportunities swatted away in the second half by Valencia’s acrobatic goalkeeper Diego Alves.  Ramires had one such opportunity.  I’m growing frustrated with Ramires because he seems to have trouble finishing.  I love his endurance, work ethic, and willingness to ram the ball ahead, but he really must come through with his finishing.

Finally, Frank Lampard got the better of Diego Alves when Malouda sent a smart diagonal pass through the box which Lamps lethally one-timed into the back of the net with one of his trademark grass-scorchers.  It was a great goal and a well-timed “shut up” to the over-eager soccer pundit boneheads who’ve lately been trying to read a lot into Lampard’s recent time on the bench for Chelsea and England.  Giles Smith had some great things to say in Lampard’s defense in his weekly Chelsea blog.  I agree with Smith that Frank still has much to contribute to the team.

Now back to that Kalou hand-ball in the game’s dying minutes… wow.  Seriously?  I’ve been impressed thus far with AVB’s handling of the squad, but it was definitely a mistake to insert Kalou.  When I saw Kalou warming up alongside Drogba, I had a feeling AVB was going to go with Kalou because Kalou hasn’t seen much playing time lately, the game seemed to be in the bag so it might be a good chance to show Kalou some love, etc., etc.  But it was the wrong game at the wrong time to show Kalou love.  Why not just let the veteran Lampard see out the game?  What on earth was Kalou, a striker, supposed to contribute in the last eight minutes?  It seemed to be one of those political moves managers feel obliged to do at this level – giving run-outs to players who have lately been out of the rotation.

Balancing playing time is surely one of the trickiest aspects of managing a club with Chelsea’s talent.  But Kalou should’ve remained on the bench.  AVB understandably didn’t toss Kalou under the bus in his post-match comments, but I will:  what was Kalou thinking?  He wasn’t match-sharp and he ran out there and blew a perfectly good win.  Sure, it’s early in Champions League play, but those squandered points could certainly come back to haunt!  I’ve always had doubts about Kalou – the necessary consistency just doesn’t seem to be there.  If I had to pick anyone to consider off-loading come January, it would be Kalou.

Anyway, it’s back to Premier League play tomorrow for Chelsea at Bolton.  The pesky Manchesters are still refusing to lose domestically, so a win over Wanderers is a must for Chelsea!

What do you think – am I being too harsh toward Kalou?

Ye Old Trafford Blues

Chelsea’s 3 – 1 loss to Manchester United

It pains this Chelsea fan to write the words “loss to Manchester United”, however, compared to last season’s Champions League heartbreak at the hands of Man U, Sunday’s loss feels downright palatable.  The loss is still incredibly frustrating mind you, but I can’t remember a clash with Man U over the past few seasons that left Chelsea fans feeling more hopeful.

Fact is, Man U was very beatable on Sunday.  Chelsea controlled much of the game.  If a few of the key moments in the first half alone had gone Chelsea’s way (offside on the first Man U goal, Ramires actually finishing the goal like he should have), the game would’ve been very different and may well have resulted in a Chelsea upset.  And yet…

I’m still scratching my head over Torres’ atrocious miss near game’s end.  Had that one gone in, the final ten minutes would’ve been even more chaotic than they were and who knows what would’ve happened?  The instantly infamous Torres blunder was almost forgivable by fans thanks to the old-school Torres goal he scored at the beginning of the second half.  Fans were so relieved to see him have somewhat of a breakthrough that they may be able to forgive one of the worst misses in EPL history.  I haven’t decided whether or not to forgive him, after all it was one of the worst misses in EPL history.  I actually felt bad for Torres.  Just as he seemed to be emerging from whatever psychologically soccer-inhibiting cave he’s been in since moving to London, he goes and misses the broadside of the barn.  It was one of those shots that are actually more difficult to miss than score.  I can’t talk about it anymore – I’m getting mad again.

Anyway, I think AVB’s strategy of keeping Torres in the lineup to force the heebie-jeebies out of Torres’ system has been a smart one overall.  It seems like it may be on the verge of paying off.  But it must start paying off soon.  The deeper into the season it gets, the more Torres’ form problems will become a liability.  I’d say he’s got three more games to get his act together before it’s time to start warming the bench and asking some hard questions about his future with the club.  I really want to like Torres.  Sunday helped me like him – and then it didn’t.  It’s frustrating.

Chelsea is better than any team in the EPL – and perhaps any other team in the world other than Barcelona – at the methodical build-up possession game.  Problem is, their build-up was entirely too predictable for much of the United game.  Man U could concede the middle of the field because they knew a predictable cross (or more often casual lob) into the box was forthcoming.  Chelsea should’ve kept United on their toes by mixing it up with some outside-the-box blasts.  During the ‘09/10 season, Chelsea had the right mix of build-up, outside shooting, and lethal finishing.  That mix all but evaporated during the second half of last season and is still finding its legs in the first four games of this campaign.

As much as I hate to admit it, United is hard to beat because they have an amazing transition game.  They have the uncanny ability to advance the ball over wide swaths of pitch with lightning fast speed and precision.  They’re great at switching and have great awareness.  Chelsea need to move the ball faster and finish with greater accuracy if they hope to catch United this year.

So those are some of my random thoughts from Sunday’s big clash.  What did you think of the game?  How should AVB deal with Torres?  Feel free to share your thoughts below…