Chelsea maintain Premier League push despite continued struggles of Drogba, Torres and Ancelotti

Salomon Kalou’s late goal may have given Chelsea victory over Tottenham Hotspur and kept their Premier League title hopes alive, but in the aftermath of the victory more discussion about the roles of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, and the decisions of Carlo Ancelotti, are inevitable.

Kalou’s goal arguably saved the Italian Coach from feeling the spotlight more harshly. Prior to the Ivory Coast international’s 89th minute poacher’s effort it had been another disjointed performance from Drogba and Torres, with still little sign of a partnership developing between the pair, begging the question Ancelotti altered his side’s formation from the more orthodox 4-3-3 that earned a 3-0 victory against West Ham United a week ago to the lopsided 4-4-2 that toiled against Spurs. Michael Essien started as the nominal right-sided midfielder but when Chelsea attacked he drifted centrally. One of Torres or Drogba then pulled wide, and with only two central midfielders Frank Lampard had to hold back, leaving Chelsea short in the penalty area. Torres or Drogba moving wide also drew Florent Malouda central, putting another player in an unfamiliar position, away from his most dangerous role.

Ancelotti altered Chelsea’s formation in the second-half. Drogba was stationed on the right from the kick-off with Essien forming a midfield three and Torres the lone centre-forward, perhaps a tacit acknowledgement that the initial system had not produced the desired results or, given Chelsea took a controversial lead on the stroke of half-time, an attempt to frustrate Spurs. Whatever the reasoning it did not have the desired effect – Drogba, a colossal defensive presence dealing with high balls, did little backtracking as Vedran Corluka eased past him. This drew Essien out of the centre of midfield to cover, pulled Lampard back from supporting Torres and thus left the Spaniard isolated when Chelsea looked to launch a counter. Far from blocking Spurs out, Ancelotti’s changes put the visitors on top in the early stages of the second-half.

More changes came – Ramires on for Essien before the hour, Kalou for Torres just after it – as Ancelotti continued to tinker with his XI. 10 minutes later Ancelotti called on his other senior forward, Nicolas Anelka, in place of Malouda. Anelka, who struggled to adapt to a wide-right role after his move to Stamford Bridge but eventually settled, replaced Malouda on the left-wing, as the picture changed again. The winning goal did, however, come from Anelka’s surge from the left flank infield, eventually finding Drogba, who in turn eventually found Kalou. Had he still been on the pitch it may have been Torres tapping in to keep Chelsea on Manchester United’s heels, but if he had found the net, much like last week, it would have been a temporary fix. The problems Chelsea experienced for much of the game – despite being deserving winners, they were not fluid champions – are not going to be solved this season. Whether Ancelotti remains in charge or not after this season or not, the squad needs rebuilding. Persisting with a solution that solves none of the problems created by Torres’ arrival is not an option.

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