Chelsea heavy on firepower, but light on spark

Chelsea’s opening day draw with Stoke offered a nice glimpse of the task awaiting Andre Villas-Boas as he looks to overturn Manchester United and claim the Premier League crown at the first time of asking.

The efficient and resilient side that Jose Mourinho created during his tenure is still there, but the side seem to lack the fluidity and creativity needed to really be considered the best in the country. Sunday’s game at the Britannia Stadium exposed the imbalance of the side and their need for fresh blood to give them that little bit extra. The squad is blessed with three top class strikers in Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka, but strikers need providers and that is currently where Chelsea are lacking.

In the 4-3-3 system Villas-Boas prefers, it means just one of the aforementioned strikers can start – unless one starts on the wing, but that is merely square pegs in round holes. The two who played on the wide berth’s on Sunday were Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou – both of whom endured quiet and altogether blunt afternoons. As the team’s primary providers, they mustered just 10 assists between them during the whole of the last Premier League season (five each), which isn’t particularly impressive. Especially when considering Manchester United’s two wide-men who featured at West Brom yesterday contributed 29 league assists between them – with Ashley Young’s 11 contributions coming with former club Aston Villa.

Kalou has never showed he has enough to cement a place in a title-winning side, while Malouda, who had a fantastic season in 2009/10, and started last season very well, has tailed off somewhat since the turn of the year and hasn’t looked the dynamic, threatening winger he was during the first half of Carlo Ancelotti’s reign. There are other options available to Villas-Boas in Daniel Sturridge and Yossi Benayoun, but neither possess the genuine wing play of a Nani or Young.

What’s more, Chelsea rely on their width, with their midfield geared more towards dynamism than creativity. Frank Lampard is the most creative of their midfielders, yet he laid on just four assists last term – albeit in an injury hit campaign. The midfield trio of John Obi Mikel, Ramires and Lampard was tidy, but lacking any real spark, as Stoke comfortably defended their penalty area, despite Chelsea dominating possession in the second half.

If Chelsea are to win the Premier League this season, the evidence suggests they will need to add some inventiveness in attacking areas. The resilience they possess is a superb trait and they have firepower up front on top of that, but there is a piece missing somewhere along the way – Villas-Boas may need to dip into Roman Abramovich’s deep pockets to find a solution.

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