You can’t win in the Premier League without a strong midfield, regardless of the flair your side possesses. An aging Frank Lampard playing next to John Obi Mikel hasn’t been the answer all season, and it wasn’t once again for Chelsea facing the best midfield unit in the top flight.
Some might say Frank Lampard is showing every time he scores just how valuable he is to Chelsea, despite the tendency to not renew his contract and send him off to wander the ice before his time in football is done. He has scored 11 leagues goals this season, but four of them through penalty kicks, and when you look at the ability and lack-of-dominance he brings to the midfield; unable to dictate pace like in previous years or preform less flashy defensive jobs, you wonder how vital is his presence actually is.
It wouldn’t be wise to throw the defeat just on one man. Chelsea are a fractured squad in someway. There’s been plenty of spending on attacking flair and ability during the summer and the winter transfer window, but the team is still without any sort of balance, and losing confidence with every disappointing performance. Just like in the Charity Shield match in August, Manchester City didn’t really have a rival to be scared of. It took them some time to score the goals, but there was no doubt as to who is the better side.
The impressive lineup of Demba Ba (who hasn’t really shined after a promising start, face-mask or not), Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Ramires on the wing didn’t really do much damage. Except for one silly mistake by Kolo Toure and Joe Hart that gave Lampard the penalty, there wasn’t much that Chelsea did to threaten Hart’s goal – Chelsea were outnumbered in the middle of the park from start finish.
And the pressure just grows on Rafa Benitez, now almost free to concentrate on the charge of Tottenham, Arsenal and possibly Everton as all three are looking for a third place finish. Manchester City are escaping with second, Manchester United are no where in sight; Rafa Benitez now has a worse record than Roberto Di Matteo had when he was sacked, and it feels that he’s losing an uphill struggle with the kind of team that has plenty of talent, but might not be exactly suited for his own preferences.
Maybe when he gets the chance to use David Luiz as his DM again, it’ll be better. It doesn’t bring too much creativity to the midfield, but it does give a few assurances for whatever duo plays in front of him, with Lampard being the man that doesn’t budge, despite what seemed to be an attempt to push him out of the lineup earlier in the season. It’s hard to push out a talisman, and the goals he has scored, despite the less than convincing ability, kept him in for a while longer.
Now, it’s not quite clear if Chelsea have the mental strength to avoid a coupe at third. They’re a better team than Arsenal, but possibly not than Tottenham, and Everton seem to be stronger in spirit. Rafa Benitez doesn’t exactly have a squad of misfits at his disposal, but it looks like he’s not quite sure how to use the depths of talent he inherited.