During the earlier stages of the season, the fact that Chelsea, an unbalanced, talented yet soft squad, had only Fernando Torres to call upon at the striker position was hidden with the brilliance of Eden Hazard and Juan Mata. Seven win-less matches later, and all the talent in the world can’t hide a forward how can’t put the ball in the net.
Since October 20, Chelsea have lost three matches and have drawn four. They’ve scored only six during this stretch, conceding nine. Fernando Torres, as funny as that sounds, is the only person with a cemented spot in the lineup. Why? Because Chelsea don’t have another striker, while the closest thing to one is out injured. The result? Torres hasn’t scored a league goal since October 6, and hardly manages to put in any threats at goal as well, averaging only 2 per game.
It’s easy blaming everything on Torres, but he’s more of a symptom. Blaming everything on Rafa Benitez is wrong as well, despite the fact that Chelsea fans want to get rid of him. Whoever was the architect in building this squad didn’t think too far ahead. He thought about the potential flair and excitement, but didn’t think about the defense that was already problematic last season, and the lack of any defensive midfield presence.
John Obi Mikel is a good player, but can’t do the job alone. Ramires wasn’t made for midfield battles, and eventually, all the shifting and filling in holes leaves a back four very exposed. Cesar Azpilicueta is a good player, especially on the attacking side of the ball, but his lack of toughness and familiarity with the English game is evident. Ashley Cole, Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill were left undermanned and undersized to face an aerial barrage from West Ham, with Sam Allardyce saving all of his attacking cards for the big finish.
On the other end, Benitez went with the formation he knows, giving once again one of the talented trio a rest (this time Oscar), hoping to get more width through Victor Moses, while Juan Mata made his return to the lineup. For over an hour, it worked. Yes, Fernando Torres was still himself, but Mata was brilliant, and Victor Moses seemed to be making the most of a rare chance to start in the lineup. Eden Hazard, on the other side, is a different story. Something is stuck for the Belgian star, who might too busy chasing and promoting misguided notions in the Middle East.
Eventually, what worked for Benitez for over an hour fell apart because of a goal that should have been disallowed. West Ham complained so many times to the referee in the first half, he decided to start avoiding confrontation, and somehow missed Carlton Cole fouling a Chelsea defender while he was scoring the equalizer. From here on out Chelsea kept attacking, but were left too exposed and fragile in the back. Fernando Torres had two very good chances to score, but that’s too much to ask from him these days.
Benitez has an incredible rough job of turning this ship around. Without a central and defensive midfield unit he can trust, it seems that his attempt in filling in the shoes of Roberto Di Matteo is going to be much harder than he thought.