At the end of the first half, one as poor as anything witnessed in recent memory, CFCnet would have bitten your arm off for a point come the close of the game. It speaks volumes that by the end of the match we felt disappointed to have drawn. All we can guess is that Ancelotti probably had ‘a word’ at half time and what ‘a word’ it must have been.
Our record at Villa is simply terrible with just one victory in eleven attempts, the solitary victory coming under Hiddink’s first league game in charge in 2009. Within three minutes the unwelcome record looked like it would be extended further with first John Carew and then Stephen Ireland coming within a whisker of scoring. Let’s be honest, we should have been two nil down by the sixth minute.
At this level you need to take your chances and Villa’s inability to convert their opening opportunities would prove decisive. When Richard Dunne came off injured early the Blues were given time to regroup and whilst Villa were obviously the better team, they couldn’t make their superiority count.
To be fair to Carlo, injuries to key players meant he had to fashion a team that bore no resemblance to what would otherwise been his first choice – no Drogba, Lampard, Alex, Kalou, Sturridge, Benayoun etc seriously limiting his options. For this reason it was good to see him take a few risks and whilst the midfield of Mikel, Essien and Ramires lacked creativity, his inclusion of Kakuta was brave.
Unfortunately Kakuta wilted under the responsibility and played so poorly he was hauled off at half time. You couldn’t blame Carlo, texts were soon whizzing round CFCnet phones with the politest one informing everyone that Kakuta was having ‘a stinker’. And what a stench it was. Twice he was on the edge of the area with the ball at his feet and twice he ballooned it to such heights that even Jon Mikel Obi blushed. Kakuta’s party tricks also fell flat with one neat backstep intercepted for Villa to break quickly.
Whilst the majority of CFCnet readers appear firmly behind Kakuta (especially since his Golden Player award at the recent UEFA Euro Under 19’s Football Championship in France), more than a few are disappointed that he hasn’t signed a new contract (due to expire this season). With Bayern already making noises according to the tabloids, we’re not looking forward to the endless headlines we can expect till the end of the season. Given Chelsea risked a winter and summer transfer ban to capture Kakuta’s signature, we hope the young man will soon realise what a fortunate position he’s in to be at our club and sign quickly. We don’t know who is agent is but he’s obviously ‘gaming’ Chelsea in a bid to extract another few million off us. It leaves a bad taste.
Ironically, it was only when Kakuta was replaced by Zhirkov at half time that Chelsea showed any signs of improvement. Zhirkov played excellently and the team were immediately strengthened by his presence. We have read that Zhirkov’s been frustrated by his lack of first team appearances but we hope he realises that squad players of his calibre are greatly valued by many CFCnet staffers because they are so central to our success (as yesterday proved).
Whether it was an Ancelotti rocket or the reinstatement of Zhirkov (and later Bosingwa and McEachran), the second half was a complete contrast and we dominated Villa. It was a pleasure to watch a patched up team roll their sleeves up and play their opponents off the park. Sure, we were lucky not to concede as the game opened up but we fashioned the better chances with both Ivanovic and Anelka hitting the woodwork in the last ten minutes.
Whilst we were disappointed with not gaining all three points we’ve got to be realistic to realise that after the first half display we were lucky to get anything. With United drawing we’re happy to remain 5 points ahead of our main rivals, but with City winning on Sunday the top of the league is getting tight.