Monday, February 9, 2009

Chelsea v Hull City, February 7, Premier League

The first twenty five minutes or so were Chelsea at their best. Free flowing, attacking, getting into good positions and looking like they’d score any minute. Which was expected because statistics showed us that it was the best attack against the worst defence. Other statistics also showed us however, that Chelsea are on a bit of a struggle and are finding goals difficult to score. Of course, numbers didn’t paint Hull in the best of lights on recent form either, but who said they tell us everything.

This was in essence a clash between a lack of confidence against a lack of confidence. True Hull had a mini-turnaround against the Baggies but their season starting swagger is a distant memory and even on an off day and burdened with their recent history Chelsea would have been expected to win.

And so it began. Frank Lampard was the chief orchestrator, bringing Kalou and the debutante Queresma into play and making some unbelievable passes in the process. Queresma looked lively and was seeing a lot of the ball but eventually very little reached Anelka or troubled the man in the post. And then it petered out. Lampard went off the boil a bit and then the shortcomings became painfully obvious all over again.

Barring Lampard, there is very little creativity in the team and Ballack looks less influential than lowest paid staff in a government office. Kalou alternates good moments with bad (and adds some atrocious moments to the mix once in a while) and the bench is more like a lottery than an assured Plan B. Mikel is good to do a decent job but he is not one to change matches. How Chelsea could have done with a fit Michael Essien and to a lesser extent Joe Cole just now. Bosingwa is not landing his crosses anymore and Ashley Cole is better than before but hardly world class as an attacking fullback on current form.

The biggest loss is up front though. How two strikers capable of scoring fifty goals a season between them can look so benign and threatless is a mystery for which Scolari and the coaching cum support staff have to answer.

And we have been waiting for it to be answered more or less from the day when Drogba made his comeback from injury. Obviously we are still waiting and in the meantime with every passing game, it becomes a game too late for Chelsea. A few weeks ago, Chelsea could have been champions by turning their own form around. Now they have to do that and hope for the others to slip up. Soon even a combination of the two may not be sufficient. Will Scolari have to win in Europe to get another season?

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