You take what you get, and although the last Champions League evening of the seasons ended in a predictable way for Chelsea (A win that’s not enough to qualify), there were enough good moments to feel happy about and build upon. Like Fernando Torres breaking his goal drought, something Eden Hazard needs to do soon if this team is to rise from its current situation.
No team in the Premier League plays like Nordsjaelland do. A small Danish club that doesn’t try and clamp down on defense and fight their way towards a 0-0 draw or something of the sort. Same open passing game, just without the quality necessary to perform it well against a team like Chelsea. No longer the creme de la creme of European football; just a good, expensive side, trying to work out a lot of issues.
The win didn’t do anything to help Rafa Benitez in his bid to remain as manager of Chelsea. It was his first since taking the job, but it really wasn’t up to him whether his club would finish in the top two. Roman Abramovich isn’t the sort of owner who pencils winning the Europa League as a reason to hold on to a manager who hasn’t been impressing so far.
But at least Fernando Torres is back on the scoring charts. His first goals in over a month of football, since his strike vs Shakhtar in the Champions League. Torres enjoyed the bounty of space given to him all throughout the match to operate in, while Juan Mata delivered another goal and was the linchpin in the Chelsea attack, as usual. Eden Hazard missed a penalty kick and despite the very allowing opposition, failed to get into that extra gear of speed and ability that made him stand out early in the season. A big part of Torres not performing well is Hazard’s slump over the last five to six weeks.
What is interesting about Benitez is that he’s not giving in to the talent thing; he’s playing the players that fit his 4-2-3-1 view on things, with at least one pure winger. Victor Moses got the start one more time, with Oscar sitting on the bench. There’s room for the “big young 3” for about nine minutes during a match before a substitution comes on. For now, it looks like he prefers Hazard and Mata, but Oscar’s goal and Benitez’ love for rotations might change that.
Hazard is feeling a little strained in a more tightly watched tactical role. During the early stages of the season, he went where he liked, whenever he liked. Di Matteo trusted his talent and intelligence to make the right decision each time. Now, Hazard is somewhat of a winger, although not really, and it’s hurting his game. There’s room for improvisation, but less than before. This is Juan Mata’s ship to run at the moment, and the Spaniard has won that trust by being in better form than anyone else, even throughout this troubling stretch.
Chelsea won’t expect any team to be this easy to dispatch with any match they’ll encounter from now on, even not in the Europa League. But a win after such a long time usually does something to a team that shouldn’t be in this situation. Who knows, maybe even Fernando Torres will start scoring in consecutive matches.