So after a break which seemed to last about a week we are back in action which a new boss and a not so new squad. The first decision we looked at AVB to make was who would play up front and the answer was Fernando Torres. However the decision seemed to be a good one as ‘Nando looked sharp, hungry and ‘up’ for the battle, and oh what a battle Stoke give any team at home. Shawcross, Woodgate and ex Blue Huth seemed on a mission to kick the Spanish striker at any opportunity and he must have felt as groggy after 10 minutes as he did when he was concussed for Spain midweek. However Torres could not be faulted for lack of bottle as he presented himself for the ball on numerous occasions making intelligent runs and when Shawcross was eventually booked for hacking down Torres it came as a surprise to nobody.
Chelsea huffed and puffed a bit in a hard fought first half and when AVB states that we need a wide player you can understands what he means. Although Bosingwa and Cole worked hard making runs up their respective touchlines it was obvious that what we missed was a skilful ‘wee Pat’ type player to take players on and to provide ammunition from the flanks. Neither Malouda nor Kalou had the best of first halves for Chelsea who finished in the ascendency having weathered the initial Stoke storm.
However the second half saw Chelsea really get stuck into Stoke and the team looked smooth in attack and strong in defence. Alex played a fantastic match and one that showed that his reported move to Juventus should be kicked into touch at the earliest opportunity. Mikel played in a mature, controlled fashion and showed none of the silly mistakes and rash tackles of past seasons. In fact the defence more than dealt with the Stoke physical threat and the 3 man central midfield of Lamps, Mikel and Ramires really bossed the second half being fast in the tackle and providing real box to box energy.
AVB rang the changes in the second half bringing on Anelka for Malouda, Drogba for Kalou and Benayoun for a tiring Torres with a few minutes to go. Anelka and Drogba looked sharp and the three man forward line is one I think we will see at home this season.
Chances wise, Chelsea dominated the game with Torres, Lamps, Drogba, Alex and Mikel having good opportunities to score and referee Halsey turning down a couple of reasonable penalty shouts. For the ‘stattos’ out there Chelsea dominated possession 60-40, had 20 attempts on goal of which 11 were on target and saw Cole and Lamps booked.
All in all a reasonable first performance of the season and one that should shake the cobwebs and enable the fans to see that AVB is his own man and isn’t afraid to make the big decisions. On to the Bridge next for WBA.