What would happen if two or more centre halves are ruled out of Chelsea’s squad? Claudio Ranieri revealed the answer at Turf Moor. Whether enforced by minor knocks to defenders, or utilisation of the pre-season to test options for later, is immaterial. The answer is clear – Emmanuel Petit may well be employed as an emergency centre half.
The referee at Burnley, determined to let the internationals know who was boss, dished out lectures for minor incidents and waved away obvious fouls by both sides. This was partly responsible for the back chat directed his way. One thing I will say in his defence was that I do not feel that he sent Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink off for his moaning or repeated offences. JFH threw an elbow in the direction of his marker and although it did not connect with his face it certainly made an impact on his chest. Despite being unlikely to injure anyone with a larger build than Jody Morris, it was nevertheless an elbow. His marker had grabbed a handful of shirt prompting JFH to try to pull away, push off him and then throw out an arm to finally free himself. It probably did not merit more than a booking.
The line-up was obvious from the pre-match discussions. It is not often that you see a goalkeeper talking to a defensive midfielder about which foot he likes the ball on. Petit looked comfortable, although the Chelsea left was offering very little protection for him and Jon Harley. Petit and Harley played a couple of exquisite one-twos to get out of trouble.
In front of them, Jesper Gronkjaer was largely ineffectual. The Burnley right-back seemed to know which way Jesper would run each time. On the opposite wing, Mario Stanic offered little more. He retained possession better and had greater support from an over-lapping Mario Melchiot, but did not really pose a threat. However, he showed great anticipation to latch onto a poor ball back to the Burnley ‘keeper, bravely nipping in to loop the ball home for a somewhat undeserved equaliser.
At the other end, Melchiot looked good on the ball, made some great last ditch tackles, but was prone to the odd lapse. William Gallas alongside him looked uncomfortable against a side obviously closer to full fitness than the boys in white. He almost did an impression of Frank Sinclair, wrong footing Ed de Goey with a back pass that almost gifted Burnley an equaliser.Frank Lampard was largely okay. He played some decent balls forwards and made one or two nice surges into the box. He confidently converted a penalty, which he won himself, and had time to try to encourage De Cesare when one or two of his more senior colleagues were giving the youngster a hard time. Lampard looked better as the game wore on. Part of this might have been that Burnley had by this time taken off eleven players in one go, and part of it might have been that he looked better with Jody Morris than he had alongside Jokanovic.
Mikael Forsell and Gianfranco Zola warmed up together and stayed out when the starting eleven were receiving their final rub down in the changing rooms. Their free-kick practice looked almost as though they were trying to hit the bar, or maybe they were trying to get it an inch under. Once Zola and Forsell were on the pitch the little tricks were there for all to see and their more subtle approach seemed to ask more questions of the Burnley back four.
Chelsea tried to play some nice football. The players rightly have confidence in their ability to play decent football. The problem was that they wanted to do so from the first minute. The team did not seem to want to play simple, quick two-touch football. Much of their possession was sweeping but lacked pace.
You cannot write this side off on the basis of one pre-season friendly. It did not look great, but there was enough to confirm one or two impressions from last season. Gronkjaer might well turn out to be the first true winger we have had for a while, but a half against United and a game against Gillingham aside, he looks more Kevin McAllister than Pat Nevin. Petit is comfortable on the ball, reads the game well and can pass. If he is not worried about his knee he will be a good signing and make quite a difference in the midfield. Lampard is not overawed by the names around him and is prepared to be vocal, demand the ball and try to make things work. I have a feeling that he will settle into the midfield, despite the media’s apparent determination to denounce his move as a flop.