A Robin van Persie hat trick exploited and deepened Chelsea’s defensive woes on Saturday after suffering a second consecutive defeat in London derbies, prompting Andre Villas Boas to dismiss the goal tending as a case of misfortune, but among all the questions that are presented after this weekend’s defeat remains the question of where is Alex?
With ten games into the season, 3 matches lost and one draw Chelsea have so far often prevailed with an attacking mindset that compromised the defensive duties of the team, leading to defeats against our main rivals this season. With murmurs already emerging of our title credentials and with Liverpool, City and Tottenham still to play before Christmas, Chelsea’s outcome at the end of the season could start to look bleak.
The positive is that Chelsea can only improve and continue to move forward in achieving the right results. Andre Villa Boas’s, insistence with his attacking philosophy and style, needs to be reigned with an emphasis on measures of how to improve the defensive workings of the collection of his players.
Warning signs have threatened this season with visiting teams such as West Brom and Norwich finding easy ways to score. Saturday’s performance was a corroboration of the defensive ineptitude of Chelsea this season.
Villas Boas staked his denial of the defensive frailties in his post match analysis saying, “You have to take two goals out of the situation because one was caused by a slip from our player that left Robin van Persie through on goal, and the other came when we were chasing an equaliser so it’s nothing to do with defensive organisation. We were punished by an unlucky situation”.
Although true in his answer, there were chances that Arsenal created before scoring their 4th and 5th goal and indeed their first. Shortly before taking the lead Walcott was twice given the freedom down the left to centre the ball only for Gervinho and van Persie to each miss gilt edged chances.
Neither was misfortune deemed to play a role for Santos to be given acres of space and entry into the box with ease, before slotting under the feet of Petr Cech, or for Walcott to fall over, regain his footing, whilst surrounded by three players and waltz into the box, smashing the ball inside the near post.
These mistakes were not a result of misfortune but the cause of calamitous errors, allowing Arsenal to snatch a flattering victory. All the while this error strewn defence has rarely seen the presence of Alex. Since the summer, added speculation of a possible move to Jueventus, Bayern Munich and even Arsenal, has lead the Brazilian centre back to be unfavoured by the young Chelsea manager.
Alex has made his own mistakes this season and was at fault for Shane Long’s opener against WBA, and he does appears to be a ‘horses for courses’ type defender, but the Chelsea set-up now needs solidarity in defence, which should include Alex.
The current system is an underlining statement of how Villas Boas likes to play his football. A very attack minded 4-3-3 with forward thinking fullbacks combined with the flair of Sturridge and the intricacies of Mata, has the Blues oozing an aggressive mentality, which disappeared from the team last season.
In comparison to last season the creative approach is much more reassuring, engaging the centre of defences and unlocking the retentions with better promise has now compromised the defensive robustness needed to stifle attacks and win titles.
One of the problems is the space allowed on both flanks for the opposition to utilise. On the right hand is the clichéd Portuguese full back, Boswinga. ‘Good in attack, but not great defensively’ is what folk say. The problem is, as a defender the main duty is to defend first and attack second, however, Bosingwa also adds caution to the wind by not being particularly good in attack either. Too often he enters the final third of the pitch with his delivery consistently failing.
Equally, Bosingwa’s failure to command the area before him in our third of the pitch is only compounded with what is in front of him. For all the flair and skill Daniel Sturridge possesses, his work rate defensively and lack of tracking back, in combination with Bosingwa’s ball watching, stepping too far in field, allowed Santo’s run into the box to score the second half equaliser.
On the other side, Ashley Cole faces a similar problem, with Mata running between the lines and dropping deep to the centre of the pitch gives way to double teaming Cole down the left. The answer to the temporary problem is to instil a solid base, pushing Ivanovic out to right back, after all he is better defensively and can deliver a cross and this allows the use of Alex to the centre of the defence.
This would allow the attacking players to burst forward without being as susceptible to counter attacks as proven on Saturday. Furthermore, a stabilising defence would prevent Mikel from dropping deeper, conceding space between our midfield and defence, which was committed for Arsenal’s first when two forward runs by Gervinho and van Persie were made to latch onto Aaron Ramsey’s disguised through pass.
Currently Chelsea have the third best attack in the league behind both Manchester clubs, but more alarmingly the Blues lie twelfth conceding 15 goals so far in the league and only a sharpening of the defence can improve the foundations of the success if the team are to have any.
Arsene Wenger thought that the defensive display was a result of Arsenal’s creative play “Chelsea have been very secure defensively in the games they have played until now so maybe it is the quality of our play that opened them up”. Er, no Wenger the defence has had its misgivings all season, your victory was not alas the attacking play but the leaking defence of Stamford Bridge.
Wait until Alex is reintroduced, then you will find a secure defence.