It is amazing how one game can change the outlook of a football campaign. If Chelsea had lost or even drawn against City on Sunday, then we would still be looking behind our backs with concern over Spurs. Instead, spirits are high and talk is widespread ahead of the Champion League showdown with United and the possibility of closing the gap in the league.
H G Wells once said “the crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow”, and now the Blues faithful are having a laugh. The crisis is now officially over, no more gossip about dressing room unrest or players wanting out. The recent run of positive results has provided the team breathing space in the league and confidence to contend with the European powerhouses. But despite the realistic opportunities Chelsea has of continuing their momentum, especially with almost a fully fit squad, there is a loss of form with our frontline.
With Didier Drogba’s supposed unhappiness at being consistently benched and Torres’ goal shy displays, there is more of a concern to be placed on the overshadowed Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou. Both starting on Sunday, many question marks were raised and compounded by Kalou and Malouda’s inclusion in the starting line-up. The whistles and boos when Torres was hauled off with twenty minutes remaining were not at the Spaniards performance, but Ancelotti’s insistence to keep Kalou on the pitch.
Kalou’s performance was not bad if typical of him, with his decision making and final pass letting him down, and similar can be said of Malouda. The fact both players were substituted indicated they were both weak links on Sunday, but the question has to be asked. Why?
Let’s start with the Ivorian. Kalou has always been a frustrating figure in the blue of Chelsea. Sometimes failing to make the right decisions, being too light weight, missing sitters and often tackling himself, he has also appeared with some important goals, particularly away to Newcastle this season and at Inter Milan season.
The frustration continually vented by the supporters comes about because of the ability Kalou possesses and the potential he initially demonstrated when arriving in 2006. His dribbling is precise and quick, his movement intelligent and adaptable across the forward line.
Pressure is against the Ivory Coast international to perform, which hinders most players progression in the modern game. Matches have often swallowed up player’s reputations as they falter to reach the expectation, the demand, and Kalou is being gobbled up this season by all the demands. This year was a big chance to outscore his team mates and muscle his way into the starting line-up, but the Kalou of youth remains just that. Kalou is still a footballer of adolescence, no growth, no excuses and certainly no longer any potential.
Mirroring Kalou’s lack of form is the Frenchman Florent Malouda. The left winger arrived a year after Kalou, finishing his last season in Ligue 1 as the player of the year. The difference between the two is Malouda entitles his time at Chelsea with a more compelling story. Facing the pressure of replacing the popular outgoing Arjen Robben, Floro had an unsettling start and slowly acclimatised to the style of play.
The arrival of temporary manger Guus Hiddink kick started Malouda’s career which he resumed in to the beginnings of this season. It is hard to believe that Drogba and Malouda opened this campaign terrorising defences and scoring goals. His bright start was upended by the team’s turmoil and low morale flooding through the Chelsea side, corroding one of last season’s star players, from which he has failed to recuperate.
His confidence has clearly been drained which was evident with his performance on Sunday. Simple things are what make the game beautiful to watch; at times Malouda has accommodated the theory with simple direct runs and torrent dribbling, a stark contrast to his wayward passing and blind running into congested areas against City.
Both players’ form is downward spiralling and threatening their prospective careers at Chelsea. The biggest danger is posed at Kalou because of his failure to completely establish himself as a blues regular, and his unreliability when called upon. Malouda on the other hand has a reputation which buys him time to regain his best form and remain an ever present in the near future.
Starting their careers at Stamford Bridge in similar fashion we are now seeing their form running in parallel. All players go through difficult moments in their careers; some have better spells than others. Importantly, it is how Kalou and Malouda respond to re-establish themselves as the players to fear most. The outcome is that both will emerge as better players once this difficult period is overcome.