After becoming a villain in the minds of ball-boys across the United Kingdom, it was time for Eden Hazard to come back and do what he was brought for; play and score for Chelsea, and maybe even more for Rafa Benitez, who needed 3 points more than anyone would like to admit.
Great news for Chelsea? Not so much. Once again, their midfield collapsed like a house of cards under a bit of physical pressure in the second half, giving Wigan a few minutes of false hope and more than a few minutes of panic on the Chelsea bench.
Once again their defense showed surprising ineptitude at dealing with situations they should be much better at handling, leading to Shaun Maloney’s goal and a few other chances you expect centre backs of this caliber to handle better.
But not all is bad; how can it be after a 4-1 win. Cesar Azpilicueta might have a thing or two to learn about defending, but there are few attacking right backs better than him in the Premier League. Marko Marin has given a bit of food for thought for Benitez, who needs a winger in his lineup, with or without Victor Moses. But… No goals for Fernando Torres, and no minutes for Demba Ba. By trying to bring life into a striker not too many believe in anymore, Rafa Benitez might be losing the other forward who actually has the ability to possibly keep his job beyond the 2013 summer.
It’s easy to dive into the negative, when even the scoreline lies a bit. Ashley Cole handled the ball with his hand in the box, but as seasoned managers not in the mood to get fined for criticizing the referees have said, these are the sort of calls that don’t get made in the favor of certain teams. Not completely true, but not far off from the truth completely either.
Juan Mata was the one of the trio to get a benching on the day, which gave Oscar and Hazard a chance to operate in the middle. While Eden Hazard scored a goal and had other shining moments in the match, not to mention this season (7 goals and 6 assists in 24 matches), Oscar keeps proving to everyone that until he doesn’t sort out his physical adaptability to this league, he’s going to be a huge flop for Chelsea. Moving him around the pitch and away from the wing does help, but there’s only so much he can do since other teams have sensed that any sort of physical pressure on the Brazilian takes him out of order.
Frank Lampard continues to score goals and march on in his crusade to save his place with Chelsea for next season. I’m not too sure Benitez would like to be using Lampard if he had his full squad, meaning John Obi Mikel back from the Africa cup of Nations, but the more the season progresses, it looks like Lampard is closer to keeping his job at Stamford Bridge than Benitez is. Chelsea’s midfield is looking like a joke at times with its inability to dictate pace or influence the match without the intervention of players who belong somewhere else on the pitch, creating the unbalance we’ve been seeing from this team all season.
Chelsea are one point ahead of Tottenham in the battle for third place, four points behind Manchester City in the battle for second. Based on talent alone, they should end up in the top 4 at the end of the season, maybe even manage a second place finish. Not too sure it’ll be enough to keep Rafa Benitez on for another season.