Chelsea kept an undefeated streak against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge alive with a stirring comeback after Rooney’s early spectacular was cancelled out by David Luiz’ first Chelsea goal and a Lampard penalty.

The Brazilian defender moved into the centre back position alongside John Terry, with Branislav Ivanovic replacing Bosingwa at right back. This was the only change from the team that disposed of Copenhagen last week.

Chelsea still has team spirit, pride, and passion – and that’s something Opta stats will never show in numbers.

Manchester kept the same starting XI from the one that trounced Wigan 4-0 – the first time Ferguson has done this in 165 games.

Many column inches have been devoted to this match, so rather than waste time discussing at length the strengths and weaknesses that have already been highlighted by the keen media hawks – see here and here – and so for a change I’ll quickly note points of interest, and some obvious facts which can be backed by stats.

Second half improvement
There’s only so much tactics and technicalities can say about a team’s performance.
In the second half we had a Chelsea side play with the virtuoso of old, passion and determination that has been missing in recent weeks [months].

Have a look at how many tackles were completed in the second forty-five compared to the first.

Mind you – some discussion on Twitter (of which you can follow me on) has questioned the validity of those stats considering the Ramires and Drogba Fergie Time!

Luiz immense
It’s no secret which signing has proved his worth more greatly after an impressive home debut for Brazilian defender David Luiz. He is notated as a centre-back but his distribution and positioning has many likening him to Franz Beckenbaeur, the German sweeper who was famed for his dashing runs and control of possession.

But he is still not adapted
As we can see from Rooney’s goal, Luiz still needs to develop a tandem with his fellow defenders. Ivanovic, Luiz and Lampard do not communicate properly while Rooney has the ball, and common defensive practices would see Luiz pick up the pressing of the English striker – however he is given time to do what he does best. This could be a trait of the Portugese league, where Luiz may be expected to players of lesser quality who do not punish you for [small] mistakes like that. But that’s one blot on a strong performance. A perfection of his tackling and pressing game, (ironically, defending practice for a defender) and we may witness a genuine great player in the Chelsea blue.

I’ve often commented that Chelsea’s biggest flaw in their slump is the poor pressing, especially in response to a team that is pressing ourselves high and hard. Malouda and Ancelotti last week discussed the matters of pressing on, with the Frenchman stating ‘The best shape to have good pressure all over the pitch is 4-4-2. If you play with the diamond it is more difficult to close the width of the pitch.’

Against Manchester and Copenhagen our pressing was much polished, where the players stayed compact and closed down opposition threats like Nani – something Ivanovic did to great effect, with the Portugese having just one blocked shot all night. With a 4-4-2 there is a missing link between the midfield – space that a team not playing 4-4-2 could exploit. However often Ferguson has a tendency to switch to 4-5-1 in big games, we did not see it tonight, with the United manager clearly seeing his players as up to the task of winning their 1v1 battles.

While this lead to an open game, it also meant we could see many deficiencies in either team’s performance – Chelsea particulary looked open to counter attacks, something United were exploiting well in the first half.

A marked improvement in terms of performance, however, and the positives are something that should be at the forefront of any Chelsea analysis this season. Torres had an early goal disallowed, and showed signs of good movement. Ramires is fast emerging as one of the better players in a revitalised Chelsea system – and with substitutions like Zhirkov and Drogba, we have a bench that can match any team in the world.

Chelsea still has team spirit, pride, and passion – and that’s something Opta stats will never show in numbers.

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