JUST LIKE ANY Chelsea fan after that 4-1 win over Napoli, I was completely overcome by emotions and excitements. I forgot to eat dinner that night, let alone writing a decent match analysis. By the time I can collect my thoughts and feelings, there are already plenty of stuff written on the game. So instead of composing the usual match reflection piece, here are some links to some very good articles and my scattered thoughts on the game.
(1) Selections and Formations
Chelsea Vs. Napoli: Some And Analysis by Graham MacAree features an extensive discussion on Chelsea's team selection and formation from the use of Lampard in the midfield pivot to Ramires as the left winger. I am in total agreement with MacAree on Lampard's effective pressing on Gargano through out this game, which kept the Uruguayan pretty quiet. It also highlights the withdrawal of Maggio in the first half as the key moment that turned the tide towards Chelsea in this game. While I agree that injury to Maggio forced Napoli into making some changes that are favorable to Chelsea, I do not want to take away too much from the quality that the home team displayed, especially in exploiting the away team's weakness in the wide areas.
(2) Talent Solves Problems
A young high profile manager once said, "ultimately it is the players' talent that normally solves the match situations." Despite dominating the possession in the opening 25 minutes or so, Chelsea looked out of ideas in the final third and Napoli created a couple of chances from counter attack. With Chelsea needing to score goals, it was a very tense situation.
But players' quality came through to put Chelsea ahead. Ramires was given enough time and space to make a cross due to some loose marking by Napoli players but one can't deny the quality of his cross and the excellent diagonal run that Drogba made to score the goal. Players' talent pulled the team ahead in a tense situation and now Chelsea needed only one goal to win the tie, which put more pressure on the visiting team.
Oh, by the way, that young manager who I quoted above sadly lost his job a couple of weeks ago and his name is Andre.
(3) Crosses, Crosses, Crosses
|Chart 1. Chelsea's Crosses against Napoli (left) and against Stoke (right)|
Michael Cox of ZonalMarking did his match analysis with the main focus on Chelsea's direct style of play and Napoli's inability to deal with crosses. As always, he is on point. With Drogba as the main man (more on that later), Chelsea played a very direct game with a lot of long balls from the back and crosses from the wide areas. Hell, Ivanovic even did a ton of Delap-inspired long throws into the box from throw-ins. Chelsea attempted 36 crosses and 12 of them were successful. Interestingly, Chelsea attempted the same number of crosses against Stoke City on the weekends and only 6 were successful. Either Chelsea's delivery and attack of the crosses were better against Napoli or Stoke defends crosses better than Napoli does.
(4) Drogba the Main Man
Didier Drogba showcased a classic strong center forward performance in this game and was vital to the win. His physical presence and movements allowed Chelsea to dictate the play and attack Napoli effectively. I don't think you can do better than reading Stephen Schmidt's breakdown of the Drogba goal and the Ivorian's ability to play with his back to the goal.
(5) Something Old, Something New, and Something Blue
Many interpret this win as a symbolic victory of Chelsea's "old guard." To some extent, it is understandable that it would be portrayed that way -- (1) the media loves to stick to a narrative and run with it and (2) Drogba, Terry and Lampard did score goals in this game. But to focus on that aspect is to do injustice to those players who gave their all to the team's cause and are not part of this "old guard."
Yes, Drogba was great but so was Ramires who never stopped running the whole game, extra time and all, and provided crucial passes that led to the goals. Terry was immense but so was Luiz who kept Cavani, one of the most lethal striker in Europe, very very quiet. Lampard was crucial but it was Ivanovic who won that penalty and scored the winner at the end of the day.
This is a victory not solely of the old. Rather, it is the result of a collective effort that embodies both the experience of the old and the energy of the new -- and ultimately, it is a victory that reminds fans what it means to be Blue.
Carefree, wherever you may be...