Chelsea vs West Ham - Blues getting into self-destruct mode
West Ham beat Chelsea 3-1 in a game of two contrasting halves. Chelsea dominated the 1st half and should have killed the game off. But they could not and they paid for it.
Mahamodou Diame for James Tomkins at half time was the substitution that changed the game. James Tomkins is a center half. Why he started as the defensive midfielder in place of Diame, only Sam Allardyce can explain. Tomkins was a virtual spectator in the first half, letting Chelsea pass the ball around as though it was a training session. Moses was lively, playing Torres through who set up Mata’s goal. The first half was all Chelsea.
Diame made the difference. Not letting Chelsea play in the center, he almost single handedly changed the momentum of the game in the second half. Once the second half kicked off, it was all West Ham.
Here are some glaring errors from Chelsea, for the goals and tactics involved as well.
1. Ramires against Reid for corners:
Here’s a comparison of heights - Winston Reid stands 6’3″ tall, while Ramires is 5’10″. West Ham had around 10 corners in the game. Most of them followed a similar trend – the ball being aimed at Reid at the far post, Reid winning most of the aerial battles against Ramires (as expected), flicking it on into the danger area and making sure all hell breaks loose. Benitez, Cech, the coaching staff, and possibly Ramires himself, never came to realize this obvious fact.
2. Cech’s Goal Kicks and inability with set pieces:
Cech needs to remind himself that the team is now in another era, he is the captain (although temporarily), and Didier Drogba is not leading the line any more. West Ham are known to be a very physical side and it is difficult to win headers against a West Ham player anywhere on the pitch. So why clear the ball with every goal kick? Most of the goal kicks by Cech were aimed at Torres, who definitely is nowhere compared to Drogba when it comes to winning headers and holding the ball up. This led to Chelsea losing possession most of the time.
Now to the set plays. Cech is usually very consistent in dealing with set pieces, more often than not, rising above the rest to catch. But he was stuck at his line for most of West Ham’s set plays.
3. Lack of experience, lack of a Leader:
Terry and Lampard were both out injured which meant Cech had to again lead the side. But a goalkeeper can only be inspirational as a captain, by making splendid saves. He was nowhere near doing that. What Chelsea missed was a motivator, an experienced head in the middle to cool things down, lift the others. Terry and Lampard would have been those players, along with Drogba. This game clearly showed how much Chelsea miss Drogba, and fans will be praying for Lampard and Terry to come back quick too. Had either of those been on the pitch today, Chelsea would not have capitulated as they did after conceding the first goal.
4. Carlton Cole goal:
The cross should never have come in, in the first place. Ivanovic did not jump when the ball came into the box. One must question what was in his mind. With the opposition’s target man jostling with him, he obviously has to make an attempt to win the header and clear it away. Instead he chose not to, and Cole duly punished him. There was a strong case in favour of Ivanovic as well, since Cole was all over him and brought him down. But the foul against Cole was not given since Ivanovic was not challenging for the ball, and hadn’t jumped in order to contest the header. The refs had also been a tad soft in favour of the latter in the first half, and felt Cole was due a decision as well. Cole took his chance.
5. Substitution of Moses for Marin:
Moses was Chelsea’s best player on the pitch. A direct runner with the ball, he was Chelsea’s most creative and threatening player. But somehow, Rafael Benitez thought this was the right time to give Marko Marin some playing time. What he actually did was replace his most physical threat with a not-yet-there lightweight playmaker. A disastrous substitution when up against a physical side.
6. Ashley Cole‘s mistake for West Ham’s third goal:
With all the pressure on him, Cole delayed his pass twice, got himself face to face with the imposing Diame at the halfway line, chose a half-lofted square pass to Ivanovic and ended up losing the ball. In a 2 vs 2 situation, all West Ham had to do then, was to dribble it till goal and seal the game, which they did. Certainly, by then, Chelsea were in self destruct mode.
Here are few things that I feel we learnt from this game.
1. Too many light players in the squad, get some physical presence in January for games like this. One easy solution to this is recalling Romelu Lukaku from his loan spell. He would have been perfect for the situation Chelsea were facing.
2. No matter what they do, Chelsea still need Terry and Lampard to lift the players when they are down. The team that played this game clearly lacked a commanding personality.
3. This trend has been observed since at least the last 5 games – Cech is aiming at Torres with his goal kicks and this is clearly not working. Torres gets muscled out easily.
4. Still, the link between the centre forward and the trio behind him is missing. Change the formation maybe and accommodate another striker?
5. Chelsea’s best players on the pitch were Mata (as usual) and Moses. Mikel put in a solid performance as well.
All in all, an absolutely disastrous second half from Chelsea. Dominated the first half, but capitulated in the second. They clearly lacked the killer instinct of the teams of Ancelotti or Mourinho. Rafa’s substitutions were off the mark as well.
If this carries on, then shall we be saying “Bye Bye Rafa” all too soon? Fingers crossed!