Consecutive away defeats for the Blues may be asking questions of their varied approach when away from the Bridge. Carlo Ancelotti has exercised a 4-3-2-1 formation away from home, however, this led to an open ended game on Saturday – one of which many would have predicted as suiting the away team. This was not the case, the open game made Chelsea susceptible to a counter-attack, which with Villa is often fierce and filled with natural pace through the likes of Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor. The Villa goals did arrive from another source, one of which that was predominate last season and one which has seen Richard Dunne score twice this season. Two well taken set-pieces from Young provided the undoing in the Chelsea box, with Ricardo Carvalho and Didier Drogba losing their men, to which Dunne and James Collins capitalised on respectively. Highlighting Chelsea’s vulnerability from these situations, the need for Alex’s return may be more critical than first expected. Drogba uncharacteristically provided Chelsea with a first goal lead as opposed to chasing the game – the striker smashed an optimistic effort in as the ball bounced uncomfortably over the American goalkeeper Brad Friedel.
The man in question once again however will be Petr Cech. The Chelsea goalkeeper may have recovered physically but psychological damage remains present from his injury notoriously sustained to the right knee of Hull’s Stephen Hunt. The Chelsea No 1 is often found loitering in no-man’s-land, subject to the mercy of an on-rushing opponent heading the ball home. The evidence was on show at Stoke as Abdoulaye Faye nodded over the keeper who was found astray. The fact is the Czech’s best chance of collecting a delivery into these areas is often chance itself. There can be no doubting of the Czech’s shot stopping abilities, frequently coming to the rescue of the Blues with point blank saves. But the underlying question the board and managerial staff should consider is, is Cech more good than he is a hindrance? After an impressive display by Hilario since replacing Cech during suspension, is it right to axe a man who made no mistake when the one making the mistakes is yet to be axed.
Another individual causing commotion amongst Chelsea fans is their creative midfield player Deco. The Portuguese requires time on the ball in order to function in the system accordingly, thus questioning Ancelotti’s decision to play the magician when tenacious and quick closing midfielders such as Steve Sidwell and Stiliyan Petrov are present in the opposing team. The player was often caught wanting of an additional touch and his preference for a slower paced game will not be gratified in the English Premier League. Therefore the Blues faithful may wonder when or if there is a right time for Deco. The quick closing defensive shield is becoming more prominent in the game and their role is receiving increasing significance with Lee Catermole, Wilson Palacios and others gaining high praise for nullifying the threat of opposition creativity. With Deco and Florent Malouda failing to fire on all cylinders the return of a fully fit Joe Cole or Yuri Zhirkov may provide the penetration the Blues need to necessitate. The lacklustre introduction of Deco was made more significant by Michael Ballack’s absence – the physical presence in midfield was sorely missed, more so against opposition the German possesses the attributes to overpower.
Chelsea’s sternest Champions League game to date will commence this Tuesday as the Blues prepare for battle with Atletico Madrid. Although singled out as the second strongest side in the group, Atletico have had a miserable start to the season, falling into the bottom five in La Liga. The side will have to contain Nicolas Anelka who will be looking to continue his strong European form to date. Chelsea’s pending opponents after a European showdown will be Blackburn Rovers, whose main striker threat Franco Di Santo will be ineligible after an excellent derby-day performance. Chelsea’s attentions may also be keeping a watchful eye on the striking talent of Kun Aguero, the hot prospect has been a transfer target for many of the top English teams in the previous two seasons. Atletico are also facing a troublesome injury period missing key players, Diego Forlan, Raul Garcia and goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo. Chelsea’s experience should prevail as they look to regroup once again after a league defeat.
Chelsea Club Focus
Terry commits future to positive Blues set-up – July 29
Reading ask all the questions of Chelsea – August 5
Chelsea start as they mean to go on – August 12
Patience is a virtue – August 18
Christmas comes early for the Blues – August 21
Chelsea maintain 100% record – August 25
Blues to cruise over Burnley pot-hole – August 28
Cole-scoring prowess – September 1
Blues stunned by transfer ban – September 4
Ban dilemma for Blues – September 8
Blues look to bounce back from ban – September 11 Perfect start continues, just – September 15
Blues aim to follow in United’s footsteps – September 18
Ancelotti magic continues – September 22
Anelka to thrive with the return of Cole – September 25
An off day but how many more are to follow? – September 29
Ancelotti’s tactics face scrutiny – October 2
Now he’s the master tactician – October 6
Up to speed? – October 16
Away day Blues – October 20