One of the easiest things to notice about this Chelsea team is the depth, especially when compared to last season. But a deep squad doesn’t mean much when its two best players, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, have failed to put in a meaningful performance that’ll justify their place in the lineup and their recognition as stars.
It’s hard to say Hazard didn’t influence the match. The Belgian starlet did take the shot the clipped Antonio Luna and helped Chelsea score their first goal. But Jose Mourinho spoke about how good his team was against Hull City (which they were, for about a half), and you expected the same kind of dominance in their second home match after the first tuneup.
But Chelsea are a team with problems, and imbalance. And until Mourinho starts giving Romelu Lukaku more time on the pitch, especially in the lineup, it isn’t going to be surprising seeing them struggle like this against teams like Aston Villa.
The placing of Demba Ba in the first XI was almost like a death sentence to the team’s attacking phases, not to mention the bad days from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard. Ba forces teams to play the long ball towards him. He can’t play with the ball at his feet, and Chelsea with long balls is a team that gives up its biggest asset, which are its three attacking midfielders.
But while Oscar seems to have entered his second Premier League season very well, looking like the most mobile of players for Chelsea and constantly trying to generate some depth in the attack by his sneaking behind the Villa defense, Juan Mata seemed to be almost sleepwalking, and quite slow in his reactions to things developing around him. Maybe it’s just a matter of rust and time which will take care of that, but something tells me that the lineup using all three of them without anyone on the wings isn’t going to last for very long.
Hazard was active, but inaccurate. He struggled beating his man, and only after Andre Schurrle came in, giving Hazard some freedom to leave the left wing did we see more from him. Schurrle wasn’t accurate, but gave the Chelsea attack a lot more verve, along with the bulldozing Romelu Lukaku who was a much bigger nuisance to the Villa defense, that handled Chelsea’s attempts quite well for most of the night.
It came down to the referee making huge mistakes – not sending off Bransilav Ivanovic, allowing the Ivanovic goal (Which was offside) and John Terry touching the ball with his hand in the box. Aston Villa should certainly feel robbed.
As long as Frank Lampard continues to spend time on the pitch, Chelsea will have these long moments of failing to dominate the match. The man is a great scorer, but he’s not a defensive midfielder, and his play next to the industrious Ramires was extremely disappointing, only he didn’t score the goals to hide his uselessness on the pitch this time.
Playing badly and picking up six points? Jose Mourinho should be pleased, but should start seriously thinking about making some more permanent changes, which include putting on a winger in his lineup, making his team a little less predictable.