Two matches into the 2012-2013 Premier League season and Chelsea, for the time being, are on top with two wins and six points, for the first time since November 2010. But aside from Eden Hazard having a fantastic start to his career with the club, there wasn’t anything too convincing in the wins over Wigan and Reading.
Anytime you need a linesman to make a mistake in your favor while playing against a newly promoted team at home, it means something was wrong during the match. The defense is prone to lapses and too many mistakes even against the weakest of opponents, especially off counter attacks which was what Reading did really well last night at Stamford Bridge, but it’s not all about the defenders.
Lets not get all dark and pessimistic about Chelsea’s seasons. Two wins are two wins, which is a better start than Manchester United and Arsenal or Tottenham if you like to throw them into this group, even if you didn’t play well. Infact, as the team is still coming together (although there aren’t that many news faces in the lineup), it’s OK to grind these out.
Chelsea had the same general problem they had when facing Wigan – Hazard’s form affects the entire team, and when he’s hot, everything looks good and flowing and Chelsea look like quite a spectacle to watch. But during his quieter moments, you expect someone else in this type of side to take command. Frank Lampard (A set piece guy pretty much these days) or Juan Mata (too tired from the summer?) to grab the reigns and lead the charge.
Too many moments of, well, nothing. Just meaningless ball possession without any kind of creativity and innovation. So far, only Hazard seems to be thinking and playing outside of the box. Chelsea were lucky Gary Cahill’s shot was blundered by Adam Federici and the linesman missing Fernando Torres’ offside in the 81st minute off of Ashley Cole’s pass.
The problems for Chelsea, despite the players Roberto Di Matteo is after, aren’t only in the back. The quality and the versatility of the midfield is usually a good place to start when a team isn’t playing well or convincingly enough. The lack of balance between the ability to attack, retain possession and push forward while having the ability to support the players behind them is lacking in Chelsea, unless they park the bus like last season.
This season was supposed to be different, but Michael Essien is no longer that kind of player, Ramires is turning out to be more of a winger each passing day and John Obi Mikel is still not the new Essien. Raul Meireles doesn’t change the formula and neither does Oscar, at least at the moment.
What is Di Matteo to do? Chelsea aren’t looking for that kind of player in the market at the moment, more keen on finding a right back (Cesar Azpilicueta from Marseille), which will allow him to use Branislav Ivanovic as a centre back if needed. Unless one of the midfielders does change his tendencies and starts dropping back more effectively, a solution might be trying something Portugal do from time to time with Pepe or Italy did quite well in the Euro.
Using one of the centre backs as something between a DM and a CB, which allows a bit more freedom to the midfield without losing a defensive player. Again, these new tactics sometimes need a bit of time adjusting to it, but Chelsea, at the moment, have enough firepower in the short stretches they actually play good football in to make it work and adapt. Playing this way, at this level for the rest of the season won’t be enough to satisfy the ambitious owner.