Chelsea Analysis – Deschamps return spoiled as Blues stutter to Champions League top spot

Terry 7, Anelka 28 (pen)


Didier Deschamps made an unhappy return to Stamford Bridge as his persistent yet underwhelming Marseille side slumped to a French inspired Chelsea.

The hosts rang the changes following consecutive defeats to Newcastle and Manchester City with Gael Kakuta replacing the suspended Didier Drogba and Yuri Zhirkov somewhat unusually filling in for Frank Lampard ahead of Ramires. Carlo Ancelotti had described the Brazilian as one of Chelsea’s best players after the abysmal showing at Eastlands, so his exclusion was clearly a tactical move ahead of Sunday’s grudge match with Arsenal.

Deschamps will have looked to Manchester City’s 1-0 conquering of Chelsea in search of how to stop such a brutal goal scoring machine, but knowing your side is already up against it after just one group game meant that the current French champions had to go for the jugular. To their credit, Marseille started brightly without carving out any real goal scoring opportunities but in typical fashion it was Chelsea who managed to find the early break through.

With just seven minutes on the clock Kakuta’s inconspicuous corner was flicked on by John Terry, and the skipper’s deft touch was enough to squirm the ball home courtesy of some feeble Benoit Cheyrou defending at the near post.

Michael Essien set the tone, dominating a scrappy battle for possession in a congested midfield, allowing the French trio of Kakuta, Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka to probe their nation’s elite. Anelka in particular seemed to be on a one-man-mission, determined to strike back against the governing body that slapped him with an 18 match ban, effectively ending his International career, and made the most of his chance to double Chelsea’s lead from the spot.

After the break, Marseille capitalised on what is fast becoming the expected collapse in Chelsea concentration, but again failed to create any real chances whilst Alex and then Essien rattled fierce efforts against the post. Daniel Sturridge was eventually thrown on at the expense of Zhirkov to restore some much needed balance to the side as the Blues stuttered to the top of Group F.

Sturridge missed a glorious chance to add a third as the curtain closed on a very unmemorable European tie, but the dissection of Chelsea’s performance is sure to be severe with Arsene Wenger and the Gunners next up for the champions. Without Drogba and Lampard, Chelsea look just a shadow of the team that has swept all before them in the dawning of this year’s campaign and with subsequent injuries to Salomon Kalou and Youssi Benayoun, Ancelotti faces his first mini-crisis of the year.

Though Chelsea’s Italian boss has thrown his considerable weight behind the enthusiastic and hugely talented adolescents at the club, looking over his shoulder at the bench does not present him with any game changing options. Josh McEachran stands above the rest in terms of adaptability and raw quality, but his tender age means any excessive pressure on the youngster could cause more harm than good. Kakuta and Sturridge, though more established, lack the ingenuity and craft that McEachran effortlessly conjures when on the ball and with Lampard still two weeks away from first team football, Ancelotti must ensure his starting XI has the luxury: not the need to call upon his starlets.

Starting XI

1 Cech

2 Ivanovic – 26 Terry – 33 Alex – 3 Cole

5 Essien – 12 Mikel – 18 Zhirkov

44 Kakuta – 39 Anelka – 15 Malouda

61 – 7 Ramires on for 44 Kakuta
72 – 23 Sturridge on for 18 Zhirkov
88 – 46 McEachran on for 12 Mikel

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