Being the first to jump on a rebound and score only his second goal of the Premier League season, Fernando Torres was the only thing worth mentioning after another boring and disappointing display from Chelsea, which was enough for a win and getting closer to the top spot, but also another reason for Jose Mourinho to use a fresh bag of excuses on why his team isn’t looking good at the moment.
Chelsea came away with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace despite some nervous moments throughout the match. Torres scored first but Marouane Chamakh, one of the hottest players in the league right now, equalized quickly in the 29th minute. Ramires made the most of a nice build up from Willian and Eden Hazard, which lasted Chelsea for the entire match. It’s now 16 matches at home without a loss. It’s not 68 home matches for Jose Mourinho without losing. But Chelsea don’t look like a team worthy of winning anything right now.
Not that it matters. Manchester United have shown us that style doesn’t really matter, and you can win titles by simply being pragmatic. Playing to win early and then settling for whatever you got through early pressure, not taking any risks. Chelsea won two consecutive European titles that way, although that was without Mourinho.
What is Chelsea’s problem? A defense that’s using a centre back as a right back? A right back as a left back? John Terry playing in general, or the poor form and decision making of David Luiz? That’s a start. There’s also the central midfield that keeps changing, with Michael Essien, far from the player Jose Mourinho brought from Lyon all those years ago, playing next to one of Chelsea’s most consistent players this season, Ramires. Mourinho doesn’t play Obi Mikel unless the match isn’t important, but last season Chelsea were at their best with Ramires and the Nigerian playing together.
But everything usually ends up reaching the attacking midfield. This time? Hazard, Willian and Juan Mata. Plenty of individual talent, but not enough team in all of this. Chelsea get goals through individualistic plays by these players, usually on the wing. What we don’t see, when comparing with Manchester City and Arsenal, are combination plays of three or more passes between players. There barely are any 1-2 attempts in dangerous areas. It usually comes down to Hazard or Willian breaking down a defense with some hazy dribbling, opening up a chance for themselves or someone else.
Not having a striker he can trust is hard to deal with considering how much money Chelsea have spent this summer. Fernando Torres disappeared after scoring the opening goal, but the options of Demba Ba or Samuel Eto’o don’t make it better. All the work done by Hazard, Mata, Willian and Oscar doesn’t mean anything if there’s no one to finish the job. Chelsea are still a work in progress because the manager in charge can’t make up his mind, and is suffering from lack of balance in the squad. If his name wasn’t Jose Mourinho, the pressure on them would be much greater to do better.