Today wasn’t the performance of a team that has earned a place in the semi final of both the FA cup and the Champions League. Today was a performance of a team that lacked focus, motivation and for the majority of the match, desire.
Yet, the 2-1 win over Wigan could be the victory Chelsea needed. Throughout this whole season the ability to win games when playing badly has been lost. It is always described as a trait of champions. Whilst the Premier League title is a distant dream, there is still a big chance for silverware and 4th place. Even if the officials were needed to lend a helping hand or in their case turning a blind eye to both Chelsea goals.
What disappointed me most about today’s performance was the fact the team had singled out 4th place in the premiership was the most important of the three fronts the club currently find themselves battling, but this was arguably the worst performance under Di Matteo. The other coming in the Premiership in our last home game against Tottenham.
The first half went by without any real talking points. Highlighted by the fact the Shed End were more busy creating songs for a certain pigeon than the on field play. Cries of “We want our pigeon back” and “Only one Chelsea pigeon” were to name a few that were sung about the winged animal.
Chelsea took the lead in the 62nd minute after a Raul Meireles cross was turned in by Branislav Ivanovic. Chelsea’s number 2 made it 3 goals in 3 games, however replays show that the defender was clearly offside, as were a number of Chelsea players who were queuing up to score from the cross. The Blues then failed to convert numerous chances, Torres and Sturridge arguably having the pick of the bunch.
Mohammed Diame seemingly doomed Chelsea to another two dropped points when his left strike flew past a rooted Petr Cech with only 9 minutes to go. However in the 93rd minute of the game, Didier Drogba’s cross found Torres (Offside? Maybe.) who hit a first time volley which cannoned off the post and into the path of Juan Mata who found the net from point blank range to send Stamford Bridge into party mode.
Fittingly, the song chosen for the end of the game was none other than the theme to “The Great Escape”.
There weren’t too many positives regarding the performance. The defence looked solid as ever, the Wigan goal coming from a failure to put any pressure on in the midfield areas. Ryan Bertrand was impressive on his first full debut, he defended the threat of Victor Moses and helped the attacking phase by putting in a series of brilliant crosses. Prior to the game, there were those calling for Juan Mata to be rested, thankfully Roberto Di Matteo didn’t listen. Mata was once again involved in the majority of Chelsea’s attacking play and apart from when Torres came on for his substitute appearance, the only player that offered any sort of movement up front.
The midfield pairing of Raul Meireles and Michael Essien failed to apply any real pressure, something that will need to change for the upcoming games against Barcelona. Although, Raul Meireles was good in his passing and contributed to the attacking threat Chelsea had.
There really isn’t a good word that can be said about the wingers Florent Malouda and Daniel Sturridge. Has Malouda forgotten how to play football? He continued his remarkably poor season, losing possession needlessly and looking a shadow of his former self. Not to be outdone, Sturridge put in an equally dismal effort and showed fans why he has found himself on the bench for the majority of recent games. The latter being booed of by a small portion of the crowd, whilst the former was the recipient of “Off, off, off” chants from his own fans when the referee went to have a word. Both, not incidents that most fans want to see again.
I’m not going to allow stats to hide the poor work rate of Didier Drogba. His lack of movement meant there was no penetration for large parts of the game. He won fewer aerial battles today than any other time I can remember. His overall play was disappointing and his work rate exposed with the introduction of Fernando Torres. The most frustrating part is that he will be one of the most important players over the two legs against Barcelona, he has caused their defence problems in the past and whilst he is likely to be “In the mood” his recent performances will not justify his selection. That being said it may be worth trying to accommodate both Torres and Drogba in the same team against Barcelona, yes it does limit the width in the team but with Kalou being the only winger in the team that spreads the opposing team it won’t be a big loss.
In the end it was three valuable points gained in the end and with Tottenham having dropped points earlier in the day, that leaves Chelsea 2 points behind both North London clubs and could find themselves in the top 4 again with a win against Fulham if other results go their way.