Monday, November 5, 2012

Problems Mount For Chelsea

Roberto Di Matteo's honeymoon has been an extended one with last season's heroics in the Champions League being followed by an - until recently - impressive start to the season with Chelsea's new starlets Oscar and Hazard settling into the side quickly.

The John Terry affair has been an unfortunate cloud hanging over for the club and in hindsight it appears it would have been far better to have had the matter dealt with last season with on pitch sanctions taken at that point. It would have given the club more time to rebuild their damaged reputation also.

Whilst Chelsea's problems surrounding the John Terry affair have been well documented, problems on the pitch appear to be mounting too. Impressive wins against Spurs and Arsenal away have been offset by being well beaten by Atletico Madrid, Shaktar Donesk and ManYoo. Tactically against the best sides Chelsea appear to be wanting, much the same as Man City have been in Europe.

The writer of this blog was (un)fortunate enough to be present for the ManYoo game at Stamford Bridge and several things were apparent. The biggest issue other than tactics appears to be a chronic lack of leadership at the club.

It stems all the way from the owner. All Chelsea fans love him for his chequebook but none could profess to knowing his thoughts - and certainly not his values - on many issues other than his supposed love for total football.

Watching United in the flesh for the first time in many years since moving abroad, the writer again was struck by the drive that the men in red have stemming almost certainly from the touchline where one manager breathes fire and the other appears to be everyone's friend.

ManYoo man for man looked to be a poorer team than Chelsea - other than upfront and we'll come to that - yet the difference in desire and the level of aggression was apparent from the start, it is something that doesn't always come across on television.

Whilst Chelsea's play this season has often been commendable, this was a team shorn of the characters of Drogba, Terry, Lampard as well as others who have left such as Essien. Whilst this blog is not suggesting these players should still be playing regularly or even at the club given the need for younger legs, there is no doubt that the club is lacking character and apparently at all levels.

This brings us to Fernando Torres who has been defended many times on this blog. Torres appeared to have been enjoying a mini renaissance after his well documented struggles but of late again he has been at his surly and shoulders sagging worst.

Enjoying a beverage after the game, I asked one of my fellow fans what they thought the score would have been had we had RVP today and United had Torres, both of us agreed Chelsea would have won.

Chelsea are inherently going to struggle if they are going to persevere - Sturridge the only other current option - with their central striker seemingly unable to re-find either his physical form or his mental strength.

With the array of inventive talent behind him moving the ball around quickly it should be food and drink for Torres yet his goalscoring chances seem to be limited to headers from crosses and corners.

In addition to these issues, Chelsea have taken great umbrage with Mark Clattenburg over firstly his handling of the game and then the alleged comments to Jon Obi Mikel. The reality is Chelsea lost the game because they were set up poorly, far too open at the back.

Ashley Cole is supposedly the best left back in the world yet he was horribly isolated twice in the first twelve minutes with the result being two goals. Chelsea were again exposed in the second half leading to Ivanovic's fully deserved sending off.

Whilst the Hernandez goal was offside, it wasn't a blatant mistake and one made by the linesman after all and the kind that are got wrong at every stadium all over the country every week.

That leaves the Torres second yellow as the only howler and whilst it ruined the game as a spectacle - especially for someone who had flown five thousand miles to see the match - it wasn't the reason that Chelsea lost the game.

Chelsea have made a further rod for their own back by making snap accusations against Clattenburg that seem unlikely in the extreme, indeed the Juan Mata accusation was withdrawn promptly.

Whilst there is little doubting the appalling on field behaviour of many footballers, it seems staggering to believe that a professional referee would have said the things that are being suggested.

Referees do not behave like footballers on the pitch in the same way that they rarely get involved in roastings, assorted nightclub incidents, urinating in public and getting into fights outside McDonalds off it. It is doubtful after all that the referees could afford the super injunctions.

It is not all doom and gloom for Chelsea, they have after all had an incredible year given the Champions League triumph and the exciting new signings give much cause for hope. Seeing Oscar in the flesh in particular, he looks a huge talent with defensive duties to match the attacking talent. Alongside the likes of Mata, Hazard, Luiz (we still rate him highly), Ramires and Ivanovic, Chelsea have mainly talented players not yet even in their prime.

The siege mentality however fostered during the Mourinho years has been replaced by an air of near paranoia and of being just plain sore losers. It's time for Chelsea to show some leadership and that means at all levels in the club starting with the crunch home tie with Donetsk this week - No Nonsense.