A 1-2 home defeat to Basle was not how we envisioned our Champions league campaign beginning, but it has been followed by a massive over reaction from most quarters. It really is embarrassing listening to some of the comments upon leaving the Bridge after a defeat these days. It does help if you win your home matches in the group stage; it is exactly that, the group stage. While no one wants to see their side lose, if you were to pick a time for it to happen it would be at the start of the group stage when there are five more matches to play. Would anyone seriously put money on another group stage exit from this point? Chances are we will win the group.
At lot of the views expressed regarding the team’s performance on the night were also way of the mark. This was not as bad a performance as most would be led to believe.
Chelsea were patient in possession, a continued sign of Mourinho’s imprint on this side, a quality needed to succeed at the top level. This patience was not only sideways passing in our own half, this was clever, incisive movement of the ball forwards, and when options didn’t materialise, it goes back to Lampard, Luiz or Van Ginkel and we build again. People getting frustrated with this at this early stage of the season against a very well organised Basle team, are in for a long season watching Chelsea.
Basle were a much better drilled outfit than we faced in the Europa league last season, Murat Yakin had clearly studied our system and lined his side up man for man in midfield, using a 4-3-3 system, the midfield three were instructed to have one of them dropping off to pick up Oscar, or whoever occupied that area, while the other two picked up Lampard and Van Ginkel. Diaz, Frei and Stocker performed these tasks, and showed good communication and understanding as they all interchanged roles throughout the night. This marking coincided with a well-drilled backline pressing up the field when we had the ball deeper in midfield, closing the space available for our playmakers to work in. The back four also read the play well enough to not get court to high as to be vulnerable to balls over the top. These tactics were enough to reduce our chances, we perhaps didn’t move the ball quick enough in attacking positions to counteract the pressing tactic. Hazard got court in possession often, he linked well with Eto’o for our first real chance, cutting in from the left and firing over form the edge of the area.
We had 60% possession in the first half, reducing Basle to only counter attacking threats, they managed two shots on target in the half, Mohammed Salah, who was outstanding all night, getting behind Cole to fire over the top.
On the stroke of half time we were rewarded for our continued probing, Luiz, picking out Lampard, who with his trademark touch and turn all in one movement played in Oscar round the right side of the Basle backline, He fired across the keeper into the far bottom corner.
The second half was a slightly more open affair, Oscar curled a brilliant effort on to the bar. Again we had more possession, but were squandered in the final third. Basle played with a slightly more advanced midfielder for the last half hour, bringing on Delgado in place of Sio, this stretched both teams midfield slightly. Basle still looked dangerous on the break with the rapid Salah, but still hadn’t created much till they found the equaliser. They worked the ball from left to right, and with a quick interchange on the edge of the area, played Salah in, and from a similar position to which Oscar had scored from, he did likewise with a left footed curler into the far corner. The pattern of play remained as before, Chelsea with the more of the ball, pressing Basle back deeper. Mourinho changed to a 4-3-3 now, Mikel holding, with Oscar and Hazard pressing on, Ba now on up top, with Eto’o on the left, and Mata now on playing right wing. Most space was wide now, but our balls into the box lacked quality. Basle won a corner on the break, which was headed in at the near post by Streller, Cahill beaten to it. Eto’o was foiled with a stoppage time effort from the left, and Basle took the points. The set piece defending for the winner was poor, but the overall performance was not. We will come up against a lot better-organised teams who will test us, and against whom we will have to be patient and inventive to beat. As Mourinho has said before, he wants the fans to sing for the team rather than him. I will add to that by saying getting on the back of the players will not help, and the best course of action is to sing your hearts out for the boys.
Come on the Chels.
Chelsea 4-2-3-1 (4-3-3 after subs)
Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Cole;
Lampard©, (Ba 76), Van Ginkel;(Mikel 76)
Willian, (Mata 67), Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o
Sommer; Vosser, Schar, Ivanov Safari;
Diaz, Frei, Stocker; (Ajeti 83), Salah, (Xhaka 88),
Streller, Sio, (Delgado 65).