Eagle-eyed readers would be justified for enquiring why CFCnet didn’t write an article following the Liverpool debacle. The answer would be that we were simply too depressed. By playing three centre backs and ‘parking the bus’ (© Jose Mourinho), Liverpool strangled our attack and stole the game during one of their few incursions into our half.
What made the defeat almost as bad as hitting the post in Moscow 2008 was the fact we were parading our new signing in front of his old team, our arch enemy ‘the stealing thieves from Scouseland’. A heady pre-match expectation of the type not seen since Ruud Gullit arrived in ’95 (at Gillingham of all places) was destroyed at a stroke by Meireles flukey goal.
Coming off the back of fantastic away performances against Bolton and Sunderland there wasn’t any need to play Torres. Like a high stakes card player we could have left him to stare menacingly from the bench whilst leaving Drogba and Anelka to terrorise the Reds. Instead, we made the classic poker error of showing our ‘three of a kind’ too early, allowing the Scousers’ to slap down a straight flush and take all the winnings. February 6th goes down in CFCnet folklore as a nasty, nasty day.
Unfortunately, the game against Fulham last night was almost a repeat performance. Indeed if Cech hadn’t saved from Dempsey in the 94th minute we’d be staring at two defeats in a row to loathed opposition. That we had the lion’s share of the possession – in the second half it was one way traffic – makes the match even more mystifying. Suddenly, with the best strike force in in the world we seem unable to buy a goal. Even for £50 million.
With the ghosts of Tony Hateley, Robert Fleck, Chris Sutton and Andrei Shevchenko lurking quietly in the background, our new Number Nine could be forgiven for thinking that Stamford Bridge is a strikers’ graveyard. Following their moves to Chelsea, all the aforementioned players’ careers fell off a very high cliff, more Angel Falls than Beachy Head. The legendary Shevchenko scored 83 goals in his three seasons at AC Milan prior to coming to Chelsea. His total over a similar period at Stamford Bridge? 22. That’s almost a 75% decline.
Yes, there is some daylight on the horizon. The Fulham game saw a marked improvement in the way Torres slotted into the team. Some excellent diagonal runs had him picked out with inch perfect passes (the 50 yard knock from Luiz a particular gem) and on a better pitch he could have scored two or three goals. He’s nearly there.
However, what disturbs us more is that the system we are playing is too narrow and doesn’t play to our team’s strengths. We also lack creative guile and with no Joe Cole or Benayoun to unlock a defence we have become one dimensional. What other reason can there be for a side full of world class players to fail to notch a single goal against inferior opposition? There doesn’t seem to be a Plan B, or as one CFCnet joker piped up, “there doesn’t seem to be much of a Plan A either”.
No Chelsea manager looking at our current playing staff could ever complain about the resources at his disposal. We have one of the best squads in the world, bar none. It’s therefore up to the management team to learn how to get the best from the 24 players available and fashion them into the kind of unit that won the league last year with 103 goals. Surely it can’t be that hard with Torres, Drogba and Anelka at your disposal?