Petr Cech saved Chelsea’s blushes by keeping out Clint Dempsey’s weak penalty when David Luiz blotted an otherwise great debut by conceding a penalty in the dying minutes of the West London derby.
ANcelotti reverted back to the staple Chelsea 4-3-3, but demoted Drogba to the bench for Malouda to start. Fifty million pound signing Torres took the central role, while David Luiz made his Blue debut on the right of John Terry in defence, meaning Ivanovic moved to right back. Essien moved to holder with Ramires and Lampard in front of him in the triangle.
Fulham played a 4-5-1 with ex-blue Sidwell in midfield and Johnson up front all alone.
As we saw on Saturday between City and Unitzed, two teams with three central midfielders can make for a sluggish game with a choked centre field. This was evident again today where both sides struggled to move the ball out of the middle, however Chelsea was infinitely the more attacking and fluent-looking side over ninety minutes.
This can be attributed to the roles of the two wingers for Chelsea compared with the roles of the Fulham wingers. Malouda and Anelka attack the goal, playing higher up the field and press the opposing full backs. Anelka , who is, despite a raft of positional changes over his career, is still in essence a forward, played more centrally than Malouda.
Luiz the ball-playing prototype
The shining light of an otherwise poor match was the arrival of Chelsea’s new Brazilian defender, David Luiz. Benfica last season, as reported here, played an aethstically-pleasing brand of football, using short passes and rapid movement to storm their way to the Portugese title. Ramires was one of the first reapers of their success after moving to Chelsea, and now David Luiz has made the switch too.
Even after just ninety minutes we can see the difference that Luiz adds to a side. While putting in his fair share of outlandish tackles, he also a tidy distribution rate and doesn’t step back from joining the attack. What was interesting, however, was the fact that he linked up with Terry on the captain’s right hand side – rather than the left that he is accustomed to. It remains to be seen whether this is a permanent spot (Ancelotti has hinted that the defence will now be rotated) but one factor that may influence his postioning is John Terry’s awful game against Germany at the World Cup, where he was forced to play on the right of Matthew Upson.
As the game wore on and Chelsea became more desperate for the winning goal, Luiz moved to the attacking right back position, switching with Ivanovic. This fluency goes to show how flexible Chelsea’s new signing is, and how much more he adds to our defence.
Ancelotti no tactician?
What was key in the opening up of City vs United was both side’s switch to 4-4-2 (albeit City’s was forced, a blessing in disguise). Nothing like this looked like occurring tonight, with Ancelotti’s changes merely personnel switches, and as a result it became more and more inevitable that we would slip up yet again in the race for Europe.
This isn’t exactly a new thing. Ancelotti, while he shows great coaching ability (evidence being last season’s double), has a stubbornness to change his shape and, while at the risk of sounding over-critical of a great manager, lacks the ability to make wholesome tactical changes.
Examples of this “trait” include the first match against Manchester United last season, where Valencia pinned the attacking full backs and Chelsea escaped, rather luckily, with the win. Against Tottenham in the second half of the season, again, Chelsea were chasing a vital goal for the win. In our stock 4-3-3, Ancelotti did little more than substitute Anelka for Joe Cole, which ignored the fact that Spurs had been pinning our wide threat that day with the advancements and rampaging of Gareth Bale.
One final example is the Champions League match against Inter. Ancelotti has never been too sure of his first choice XI, and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Ancelotti’s starting team wasn’t finding any way past Mourinho’s deep defence and rapid counters. But where a tactician now shines, Ancelotti’s substitutes only highlighted the lack of inspiration from the sidelines.
Never think a ‘bad moment’ is over. Games where the two sides match each other on the pitch tactically are generally decided by the difference in class. However our current run of form justifies being at an equal level to Fulham’s players, and that’s why the match ended in a goalless stalemate. Having a laugh at me saying we’re at an equal level to Fulham at the moment? Let’s have a look at the form guide:
Chelsea sit fifth on the form guide table with ten points from the last six games – and Fulham sit sixth with nine points.
Chelsea fans, and in particular, Roman Abramovich can take lessons from this game: while his coaching ability is without class, serious questions hang over Ancelotti’s tactical judgements.