Yet again, I go away disappointed with a performance from Chelsea at home. It is now five home league draws in a row, and I must say, we should have won at least three of those. Against Manchester United, we were quite frankly atrocious. Given that we have put in a couple of very good performances away from home, we have not been good enough at Stamford Bridge under Hiddink, and that was the same today.
I promise this is the last time I rant about this, but we must stop playing Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel together in midfield. I will accept it in a tough away game, but today was not one of those. We were capable of dominating the game against United, but you cannot do that with two defensive midfielders. If you do play those men in midfield, that means Cesc Fabregas must play in the no.10 role behind the striker, with Oscar out on the wing. Oscar is not a winger. Just because he’s a good attacking midfielder does not mean he makes a good winger. He doesn’t.
Oscar is an incredibly talented player who must be given the chance to influence the game. Out wide he doesn’t get this opportunity, and this was clear today. Eden Hazard however has had an effect on the game when he came off the bench against both Watford and United, because he can play on the wing, and he can influence the game out there. If you leave either Matic or Mikel out, based on today’s performance it should have been Mikel, you can play Oscar in the middle and give Hazard a go on the wing. I’m not very happy with Hazard this season, given I see him as one of the men responsible for getting Jose Mourinho sacked, but we have to win games.
This is the second Chelsea Review I’ve done on a match between these sides, and I remember last time praising the goalkeepers. I must do this again. For the Blues, Thibaut Courtois looks like he’s finally returning to his best after a long injury lay-off, and he made a couple of brilliant saves today, the best of which came to deny Anthony Martial in the first half.
In the other goal David de Gea dominated the second half. He made at least two world-class saves, the first of which from Branislav Ivanovic’s volley, and then to deny Diego Costa a last minute winner. He has really become one of the world’s best goalkeepers now, and given that Man Utd have still got a lot of work to do to make the top four, you wouldn’t blame him for wanting to make that dream role for Real Madrid.
I have just mentioned Branislav Ivanovic in an attacking position, which was the only place he really had an effect on the game because he was hopeless defensively. When your winger is Anthony Martial, a man who is predominantly right-footed, you have to show him onto his left foot. Every time the Frenchman picked up the ball, he ran at Ivanovic who sent him inside, giving him a simple root to goal. This is a man who Chelsea have given a new contract. John Terry hasn’t been given one. I’ll leave that there.
The first half was a half of two halves. Chelsea’s sloppiness in possession and poor formation meant we really struggled to keep the ball, and were totally overrun in the first 20 minutes. But once we finally got a foothold in the game we did cause real problems, and being that he looked like he was playing some of his better football, Diego Costa was causing Chris Smalling a lot of problems. I must admit I’m still not impressed by Smalling, he’s still very rash in defence, and his positional play is shocking.
For the opener, I have to say it was a brilliant strike from Jesse Lingard. But, given that the long ball that led to the goal landed on Marouane Felliani’s chest without a challenge, I was quite disappointed. Felliani will only ever cause you problems in the air, so you have to try and stop the ball coming into him. I know there was still a long way to go to goal at that point, but if you challenge him for the ball in the first place, that goal never goes in.
I think even though we were pretty poor throughout the game, the dominance we had in the last 20 minutes was always going to give us an equaliser. United sat off and let us have the ball, and that is where the goal came from. Undoubtedly Costa was our best outfield player all day long, and if anyone was going to get the goal, it was him. It was a clever ball from Fabregas to put him in, and even with the deflection, Costa was never really going to miss.
Apart from the result, the real disaster could be the injury to Kurt Zouma. The youngster is a strong guy, and he doesn’t like to show pain. The fall itself looked horrific but to hear Zouma’s screams was awful. It doesn’t look good, and I doubt he will play again this season. This means Zouma will most likely miss out on a place in France’s Euro 2016 squad. I really hope it isn’t as bad as it first looks, but I doubt it.
We do now have a week off which should allow us to sort out everyone else’s fitness for next Saturday’s home game against Newcastle. That is certainly a game where we don’t have to play two defensive midfielders, but like I said, I won’t mention that again.