There’s no escaping it was a bit of a demoralising weekend in the premiership for us. Two needlessly dropped points meant Chelsea have slipped down to third and fallen behind our title rivals. In the next round of fixtures we certainly need to make sure that all three points are taken, in what is a tricky away fixture at the Hawthorns, if we’re to head into the forthcoming fixture pile up with confidence and within striking distance of the Manchester clubs.
We seem to be lacking a ruthless edge at the moment to see out the games and collect all three points. At Swansea we looked to be comfortable only to let in a late equaliser and it was a very similar story a week on against Liverpool. The telling difference between the games was that at Swansea the performance wasn’t great but last weekend we created more than enough chances to be two or three clear before Suarez’s controversial header. In both games we were in the commanding position, a goal to the good, and with time running out on the clock – you would expect us to hold steady for the win. Instead we’ve shipped late goals and been unable to rally.
This is of course was sharply contrasted last weekend by the turnarounds of our rivals. United were two nil down and staged an epic comeback to snatch the win and City were a goal down, to last year’s brief title challengers Spurs, but showed enough bottle to snatch victory near the death. In both games the winning sides were far from their best, often looking short on ideas and cohesion. The same could not be said of Chelsea’s performance. Yet disappointingly we still dropped the points as they won.
Of course there is a reason the Manchester clubs have been battling for the title the last three years and the fighting characteristics of champions cannot be too downplayed. However we’ve seen enough of that same never-say-die attitude in recent weeks (inspiring comebacks against Spurs, Man U and Shakhtar) to know it’s also in abundant supply at the Bridge as well. I think the main difference between the games is that the Manchester clubs were in losing positions and this forced their hand to gamble. Both coaches took risks by adding attackers and changing the formations to chase a goal and get back in the game. For Chelsea’s last two league games we were already in winning positions and seemingly in control of the games, adding attackers or changing things would be a bigger and more foolish risk for Di Matteo to make.
However I still think there’s much we can learn from the gambles other clubs have taken, as so often this season when caution is thrown to wind it seems to be paying off. When Liverpool equalised Di Matteo kept like-for-like and replaced the excellent Oscar with the more direct Moses, this was followed by Torres being replaced with Sturridge. Not bad substitutions per say but keeping the shape rigid was overly cautious for me. No real chances were created from the changes and, if anything, we finished more weakly than the opposition. If we’re going to grab the three points in the last moments of a game sometimes we’re going to have to roll the dice. Sturridge, Torres and Moses can easily be a makeshift front three in a similar vain to the Manchester clubs preferred gamble and ensure that we have bodies in the box who can finish. Why not take off the defensive anchor Mikel and replace him with an attacker? If we’re chasing a goal Oscar or Mata could easily drop back into a more orthodox midfield role and orchestrate attacks from deep. Of course it would make us more open but you would hope that having an abundance of attackers on the pitch would create enough chances for a winner. Let’s hope we start putting games to bed first and foremost but it’ll be something the management might be looking into in the weeks ahead.