Tonight Chelsea travelled to the Ukraine and faced a Shakhtar Donestk side that are somewhat under rated on the European stage and surprised not only the supporters, but the Chelsea players and staff alike.
Roberto Di Matteo decided to make some changes, seeing Lampard come in for Hazard and Terry in for Cahill. Surprisingly those were the only two changes and even more surprisingly, he started with Ramires on the wing once again, we all know how strongly apposed I am to this!
Shakhtar bossed the majority of the play and if it wasn’t for the heroics of Petr Cech, it would have been a hugely embarrassing result. Chelsea failed to keep hold of the ball for any damaging lengths of time, nor did they manage to create any really decent chances.
Torres looked like a player who lacked imagination, a first touch and any kind of confidence at all, albeit if he was putting in his usual effort. An early injury to Lampard saw Hazard replace him, although even our Belgium gem could not find his touch and lacked attacking finesse.
Mata was quiet and not himself, Luiz was clumsy and wasteful, whilst the team on a whole played an evening that they will like to forget. The positives? Well, there really wasn’t that many, Ramires and Cech were both excellent, Ivanovic had a strong game on the right, even setting up our consolation goal for Oscar to finish from close range. Mikel was consistently ok, and of course Oscar was full of energy and working hard.
With that said, Di Matteo’s men were simply exhausted, Torres looked close to collapsing in the second half until he was finally bought off for Sturridge. Mata, Hazard, Luiz, Mikel, Cole and Ivanovic all looked absolutely knackered throughout the majority of the game and this was the main reason we lost so easily.
Ok, Shakhtar were good, they had an exciting bunch of fast Brazilian players who really caused us problems, but if we weren’t so fatigued then it would have been a different story.
I fail to understand why we did not ring the changes. People claim we must play our strongest team away from home in Europe, but I’m sure people would agree that our best midfield right now is having Ramires and Mikel in the deeper roles, right? So starting Lampard already was not our strongest team.
For me, any one of our fringe players are strong enough to play as part of our strongest team, and I do not understand why many players were not given a rest tonight. It was visibly apparent that certain players were suffering from exhaustion tonight, and we have players such as Bertrand, Marin, Moses, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Piazon, Sturridge and Romeu who are all class players and more than capable of stepping into the starting line up and being part of a strong side, we needed fresh legs tonight, and the lack of it really made us pay.
The Ukranian side scored goals fast at the beginning of each half and there really wasn’t any danger from Chelsea throughout the game, it was uncomfortable viewing, a selection line up that I believe Di Matteo bottled. I’m sure many will argue with me on this, but we simply had to rotate the squad tonight, as we did last season, to keep everybody fresh. We lost anyway with our ‘strongest team’, so what did we have to lose?
I’ve backed our Spanish number 9 ever since he signed from Liverpool for £50 million, I still rate him and anyone would be a fool to write him off. Even though he has been scoring goals, he is badly off form right now and I struggle to see a way back for him at Chelsea. He is making the wrong moves, wrong runs, his first touch is off, he lacks confidence and imagination and he simply looks half the world class striker that he once was. Saying that though, I’d give anything for him to start being the player he once was again, I am a Torres fan, but I’m also a realist, and I can see how desperately we need a true out and out prolific centre forward in our team right now. Torres is not being that striker, as much as I hope that changes, I really can’t see it. I admire his work rate and will always back him whilst he’s with us, but patience is running thin.
David Luiz was also very poor tonight, amongst others. The team on the whole were poor and exhausted. But that was today, tomorrow is another day. Eddie, Robbie and the boys will get them back on that training pitch in the morning solving these issues, creating solutions to the problems we saw tonight, getting set to face Man Utd on Sunday, ready to once again show the world what a scary and class act we are this season, because we really are a top outfit and this was just a tiny blip, due to exhaustion.
So as always, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, get positive again and we KTBFFH! That’s why we’re CHELSEA!
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Simon Phillips – News Editor