Seeing Zola come on to a rapturous reception at half-time brought tears to the eyes of the CFCnet crew seated in the Matthew Harding Lower Tier on Wednesday night. It wasn’t so much the sight of our long lost friend that made the tears flow but more that he remains a potent reminder of the creativity and magic that our side currently lacks.
Don’t get us wrong. CFCnet believes we are still very much in the Champions League tie and thousands of us will be travelling to Old Trafford next Tuesday with high hopes. Our record at Old Trafford is better than any side in world football and Chelsea often rise to the occasion at the ghastly named ‘Theatre of Dreams’.
We make the journey in the knowledge that if we score first, United will be quaking in their boots – any subsequent Chelsea goals will as good as count double. Chelsea are also a team with a cast-iron mentality and we play our best football when up against the odds, more so when it comes to a stadium packed with quiet Surrey day trippers (“you only live round the corner”).
What concerns CFCnet, however, is that our team is too one dimensional and United’s display on Wednesday shed a clear light on this deficiency. Yes, we have an outstanding defence (the best in the Premier League), a brilliantly robust midfield and probably the strongest attack in Europe. But what makes the side fail to gel is the lack of a midfield playmaker to unlock opposition defences and make the killer pass in the final third.
It’s all very well having strikers of the calibre of Drogba, Torres and Anelka but if they fail to get the service how can they score? Sure, we came close on Wednesday night with two world class saves, a post, a goal line clearance and a clear penalty appeal all conspiring against us. But it was still apparent to anyone inside the stadium that our play was too predictable and Carlo Ancelotti had no Plan B except to bring on Malouda and Anelka late in the game.
We’re certain our lack of creativity isn’t lost on the manager. Carlo was fortunate to have had Zidane as a playmaker when he managed Juventus and then Kaka when he managed AC Milan. In fact Carlo’s management success has been tactically down to his use of razor sharp strikers in front of a world-class playmaker. Carlo himself played with one of the greatest playmakers of all time and, for younger readers, this classic clip of Carlo taking a pass from Ruud Gullit and scoring against Real Madrid in the European Cup semi-finals shows he personally knows where the goal is too.
Talking of Real Madrid, CFCnet couldn’t fail to raise a smile at the fortunes of London’s other Champions League quarter finalists, Spurs – one nil down after four minutes, ten men on fifteen and four nil down at the final whistle. With that in mind, it hasn’t been a bad week and it’s still all to play for, although not for Tottenham .