An almost frustrating day in west London saw the Blues leave it agonisingly late to steal the three points in the season opener. Chelsea started defensively edgy with a number of rash decisions allowing Hull opportunistic chances throughout the day. Phil Brown’s side played deep, and presented solid evidence of a successful pre-season campaign as their quick closing down prevented Chelsea the freedom to roam. Ancelotti’s starting XI struggled to string the final ball through the well-organised Hull back four and so the two teams entered the dressing room on level terms. Didier Drogba’s well-taken free-kick cancelling out an earlier Stephen Hunt exploitation of a fortunate deflection. The second half proved much more promising for the Blues as they upped the tempo and induced an air of creation through midfield magician Deco. Leaving it late however, a cheeky cross from Drogba found the back of the net securing a 2-1 home win. The striker later admitted to have been searching for teammate Salomon Kalou with the goal deemed a misplaced cross rather than an incisive chip.
Hull were able to provide Ancelotti with a preview for Chelsea’s early fixtures – the Blues take on a number of relegation candidates in August and September, all of whom likely to play with a similar 4-5-1 philosophy. Hull at times went forward, breaking their off-the-ball ‘park the bus’ formation however, when broken down, the threat of the home side’s counter-attacking abilities was too much and could scare even the most competent of teams from an attack of their own. Chelsea, in order to fulfill league success, will need to counteract the 4-5-1 formation they are likely to face so often this season as the lesser teams exercise their ‘settle for a point’ policy. For this reason alone Ancelotti’s 4-3-1-2 formation may need revising.
The tactics both favoured and employed by Carletto may have proven successful in the slower paced Italian game, but whether they can withstand the tighter and quicker English game is a big question. The 4-3-1-2 lacked natural width and discipline with an unorthodox right-midfield position. Jose Bosingwa and Ashely Cole, in spells, attacked their counterparts but in doing so left space susceptible to being countered. With Frank Lampard and Michael Essien often having to revert back after finding forward options few and far between, the Blues’ need for Joe Cole to return from injury was clearly apparent. Should Ancelotti choose to discard his preferred formation, the 4-3-3 – so successful under the reign of Jose Mourinho – would provide effective wide attacking options with Florent Malouda, Yury Zhirkov, Joe Cole and Salomon Kalou all proficient from the touchlines.
Despite these possible changes, in order to secure victory over fellow Premier League sides, Chelsea must be unforgiving in front of goal. Too often on Saturday Hull were left unpunished as both Drogba and strike partner Nicolas Anelka squandered clear-cut chances. Although the Ivory Coast captain found the net on two occasions, the attacking brute portrayed rather wayward finishing.
A genuine concern for Chelsea against stronger opposition is if the pair struggles to convert the abundance of chances likely to be presented to them. As the game progressed attacking potency was lacking to put the game beyond Hull, and the Chelsea bench offered a mix of inexperience or unnatural replacements. The manager did introduce Kalou, Deco and Michael Ballack, all of whom had a reasonable impact on a faster-paced second half. The trio – introduced to aid the goal-scoring problem – failed to inspire even the most optimistic of onlookers as none can be described as a natural centre-forward, or indeed a centre-forward at all. Chelsea’s supposed pursuit of targets Alexandre Pato and Sergio Aguero needs to step into fourth gear after a relatively worrying attacking display at the Bridge.
On the transfers out front, youngsters Jacob Mellis and Liam Bridcutt joined Southampton and Stockport respectively on loan deals that will keep them at their clubs until January. The players have impressed in the reserve side and will look to replicate this form at their new clubs.