One person said I was delusional to think we would get anything in Naples. I would agree, if I didn’t make my predictions based on numerous assumptions. Lineup, formation, strategy and certain players like Didier turning up in the flesh that can actually make a difference.
Football is midfield, defence and attack. I don’t think we should sack AVB but I’m afraid he makes tactical errors, albeit errors related to the players we have. Some managers are good at building a team that suits their plans (right positions, right styles), some are good at shuffling and making the best of what they have, some others are good motivating a team regardless of these factors.The first needs a bit of time if you don’t splash cash, and is much easier if you actually choose to reward the investment put into your youth system. Yesterday the Chelsea youth team came back from 3-0 down to win 4-3 in the FA youth cup. A day after the first team lost 3-1 in Naples.
I digressed, back to midfield, defence and attack. 4-2-3-1. Three attacking midfielders, lone striker, the ever critical holding midfield pivot and a regular back four. I’ll start from the back. Having to lose Bosingwa and put in a half-fit Ashley Cole is just part of the unexpected you expect in football. My problem however was the positioning. We had a slower,calmer right side of defence (Brana and Cahill) and a faster but more erratic left side (Luiz + Cole/Jose). I’m not a real manager, but surely you want to balance the speed of your back four, most especially when you go against a pacey front three. You see, Lavezzi will attack the space between RCB and RB, Hamsik will attack that between LB and LCB and try to playing in Maggio (a right midfielder that makes byline runs), while the potent Cavani picks either of those pockets or the main one between both center backs. Lavezzi scored 2 goals and Cavani scored one by losing Brana. Right side of defence? YES. Might have been slightly better with JT around cause he will always play LCB. To digress, some of the best defence we played this season was when we had Brana-Luiz-JT-Cole. I know Brana loses his left winger/ left back a lot but its better when he has a fast defender like Luiz right next to him.
The midfield pivot of Ramires and Meireles is, simple, stupid. Ramires is a runner, Meireles is a … floater (i really cant find a word to describe him, thinking about it makes my head hurt). Better combinations would have been Essien-Meireles, Mikel-Lampard, Romeu-Ramires, anything with a DM. The more attacking the second MID is, the deeper the DM you want to play. Even though its a pivot(meaning both players share responsibilities in attacking and defensive transitions), you have to play with what you have. Secondly, Ramires and Meireles are relatively bad passers, possibly the worst amongst all our midfielders. On Tuesday, Meireles was unsurprisingly as bad as he has been in recent weeks, Ramires was shockingly abysmal maybe due to the fact that he’s just back from injury. Together, they conceded the 1st goal.
The attack. I said in my match preview that there are 2 Drogba’s which we all know. The bad one turned up, and I don’t know why he finished the game. Firstly, he’s more suited to 4-3-3. Secondly, any manager should be able to see when Drogba is having a horrible game. It never changes. He just gets worse,and worse and we hardly ever win. The fact that he had a poor game just made our attack impotent as a unit. Mata didn’t receive the ball enough cause the poor pivot weren’t making the right transitions and passes to draw Napoli’s midfielders out to free him. Sturridge was occasionally selfish but he made things happen despite hardly having runs to pick out. Malouda was Malouda, no explanation needed. Mata was decent and might have been more effective if he had a Torres in front of him. No Didier/Nando debate here, I’m only saying Drogba had an off-day you can spot from miles away and the 4-2-3-1 is El Niño’s forte.
I can complain about schoolboy errors we made on each goal even though that’s how we got our goal. But the main problems right now are confidence, and managerial decisions. AVB doesn’t seem to know his best team and keeps trying experiments. Confident and motivated players can still manage to win games in a bad tactical setup, but two things are working against us right now and it’s sad. We just have so many players out of position and they aren’t even happy. So much pressure from the media and things are looking blue for the fans, the players and the manager. But there is the future to look forward to, more on that later. Way out of this slump? A couple of lucky wins (even though you create your own luck), improved confidence and a small streak can return us to winning ways, and help AVB determine his first team.
The Youth Team
For the last 2-3 years, I’ve been following our youth team actively and there is one thing that shines through them. Spirit. When you talk about playing for pride of the badge and the club, they know what it’s about. Not to mention a bunch of real quality players we ignore to sign hyped players (e.g. signing Lukaku instead of keeping Borini). Practically every great win I’ve seen in the FA youth cup have been comebacks. The 2010 final, every round last year and the last 2 rounds this year have been proud moments for me as a Chelsea fan. But what they did yesterday was even more awesome than the last minute comeback from the previous round.
Feruz is a real gem, looks even better than Borini was at the same age. Piazon has acclimatized and is performing at such a high level. Amin Affane is so good for his age you wonder where we found him. I could go on and on. I don’t buy into this bullsh** that you shouldn’t put young players under pressure by playing them in high profile games. Why? Because they are young players and you have to invest into their future, with games. They have to make mistakes at the highest level to get to that level. It’s the club’s duty to have faith in some of these lads and not just dish them 4/5 year contracts for reserve games and random loans to Vitesse Arnehem and championship clubs. We don’t have a Pep Guardiola nor a La Masia, but this needs to be soaked into the roots of the club, regardless of the manager in charge. It helps, having a long-term coach but when a club has a proper plan, it flows through the whole club.
If we didn’t have quality young players, that would be another discussion but we’ve clearly invested a lot into these young lads, scouting them, signing them and training them. Just to think Brendan Rodgers worked with Josh McEachran at youth level should put into perspective the quality down there. We have some players that have been here since ages less than 10 that are quality on the pitch and have desire to play for this club, the kind of desire you can’t just fake or find elsewhere. Play them. Throw them in the deep end. What you sow is what you reap. Some might fall off, but some will definitely make it. The reward is the sweetest and it’s a cycle that will continue. There’s nothing fans love more than committed players and watching our very own wear the first-team shirt. I continue to watch the Youth Cup in hope that someday our very own, will remain our very own.
PS: 10 Men went to mow (the song behind the title)
Win or Lose, Up the Blues
Over land and sea, Chelsea chelsea carefree.