Chelsea Analysis – Lethargic Blues stutter to curtain-raiser defeat against Manchester United

Kalou 83

Valencia 41, Hernandez 76, Berbatov 90

Chelsea’s lacklustre pre-season form continued into this year’s edition of the Community Shield as they crashed to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United.

Carlo Ancelotti’s reigning champions have now lost four consecutive pre-season games with eyebrows being raised in the media as well as internally over the fitness of his aging squad. The Italian boss recently admitted he is far from happy with his team’s physical condition and despite a much improved showing after the break, rarely discovered the cutting edge that saw them smash the 100-goal barrier last term.

Ashley Cole in particular looked exposed early on whilst his positional sense left a lot to be desired. The marauding full-back failed to track Antonio Valencia for United’s two opening goals, prompting speculation that his personal circumstances are having an adverse effect on his game. Throw into the mix a reported transfer bid from ex-Coach Jose Mourinho and Cole’s puzzled mental state is quite understandable.

Chelsea’s unremitting defensive frailties were evident as Paul Scholes and then Ji-Sung Park arrived late unmarked in the penalty area, only to see their respective volleys miss the target. Jon Obi Mikel is still yet to demonstrate exactly why his London employers fought so valiantly to steal him from their Manchester rivals and with World Cup star Ramires on the brink of signing from Benfica, Mikel may well find himself on the bench come late August. For the first time in an age John Terry looked solid, his presence definitely felt in the heart of defence. A forceful performance from Branislav Ivanovic at centre-half will have given Ancelotti food for thought ahead of the season opener against West Bromwich Albion – the Serbian’s pace acting as tremendous cover for Terry at times – and his willingness to get on the end of crosses at the other end makes him a genuine threat from set pieces.

Florent Malouda banished his miserable summer and started to recapture the type of form that saw him collect the club’s Players’ Player of the Year award last term. The bustling winger looked comfortable in possession and when combining with goal-scorer Salomon Kalou, offered rare opportunities in front of goal. Forgotten man Paulo Ferreira was effective as ever at right-back and his individual performance states the strength in depth Chelsea still have at their disposal.

Premier League Golden Boot winner Didier Drogba came on after an hour and was widely ineffective but fans should remember their talismanic forward is still working his way back from injury. Michael Essien also lifted himself off the injury table to produce a decent 90 minutes of football, but the Ghanaian’s usual surging runs were replaced with understandable caution as he also fights back from a long-term injury.

The Ivorian is just one on a long list of Chelsea players to have suffered a dismal World Cup in South Africa and although the Blues managed to trump Ferguson’s men on three separate occasions last season, Terry and Co. can be under no illusion – any repeat of this performance will see them trailing their title rivals from the off.

Another fractious, disjointed display from Chelsea will have done little to satisfy the hierarchy at the club, and given that Roman Abramovich is hardly the most forgiving of employers, a stuttering start to the campaign will rapidly increase the pressure on Carlo Ancelotti and his double-winning squad.

Starting XI

40 Hilario

19 Ferreira – 26 Terry – 2 Ivanovic – 3 Cole

5 Essien – 12 Mikel – 8 Lampard

21 Kalou – 39 Anelka – 15 Malouda

60 – 11 Drogba on for 12 Mikel
60 – 23 Sturridge on for 39 Anelka
72 – 10 Benayoun on for 15 Malouda
79 – 43 Bruma on for 19 Ferreira
79 – 18 Zhirkov on for 3 Cole

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