AFTER THE HIGH of lifting the FA Cup trophy, the low comes to Chelsea in the form of a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the opposition whom they beaten three days prior. It was a very poor performance from the Blues, conceding three goals in the first half and looking out of ideas and desire in the second. Some thoughts and analysis after the jump.
Selection, Formation, etc
As expected, di Matteo left out many of the players who started for the FA Cup final. Even Cech got a break as Turnbull got the nod for the place between the sticks. Romeu and Essien paired up for the double pivot while Malouda was given the Mata-role behind Torres. Here, I'm not going into the rotations and team selection that clearly showed Chelsea prioritizes the cup competition over the league. For that go read this insightful take from Graham MacAree.
Instead, let me note that Romeu and Essien having a horrible game in central midfield was not expected. Yes, we know they aren't as good as the Mikel-Lampard pivot but we didn't think it was going to be this bad. However, it is clear from the past couple of games -- Arsenal (A) and Newcastle (H) -- that Malouda cannot play in that attacking midfield role. Di Matteo has made a couple of inspiring tactical moves since he became the interim manager. Playing Ramires on the left wing against Napoli and Barcelona. Un-inverting the inverted-wingers system against QPR when Sturridge played on the left and Kalou on the right.
That kind of innovation was absent in playing Malouda for a role that does not fit him. We might have done better with letting Lukaku lead the attack and using Torres as the withdrawn-striker/attacking-midfielder, a role he can definitely play. This is not to say that I know better than the manager but it is definitely fascinating to think of as an alternative tactical option.
On the other hand, Kenny Dalglish, inspired by the last 35 minutes of the FA Cup game, went with Carroll and Suarez up front in a 4-4-1-1ish formation. Maxi and Downing were on the flanks while Shelvey and Henderson operated in central midfield. The key to playing 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 effectively is the player behind the main striker, in this case, it was Suarez. The Uruguayan dropped in to pockets of space between the Chelsea lines and had a superb game. It was also helped by the fact that both Downing and Maxi stayed very wide, stretching the Chelsea defense horizontally, which meant that Suarez could find space between the two Chelsea central midfielders -- Essien and Romeu.
That is pretty much all the tactical analysis I can make on this game. The desire, motivation and other psychological aspects determined the nature of the performance and, ultimately, the results.
In Defense of Terry
The captain had a poor game. No doubt about that. But it is very silly to question the man's ability when he had put in solid performances time and time again this season -- Barcelona (H) a stand out example. Since the Fulham game on April 9th, Terry has started every single Chelsea game with two cracked ribs in his chest. That is 9 games in 32 days, from Fulham (A) to Liverpool (A), aka a game every 3.5 days. And aside from that away game against Barcelona, he finished every single one of those games. In those nine games, the man has had some outstanding defensive games. And yes, he had a bad game against Liverpool but that coincidentally came in a game in which the two central midfielders in front of him were having the worst performances of their lives. It would have been a different story if he had Lampard and Mikel in front of that Chelsea back four. Terry is not faultless in that game but a little perspective will be nice.
Carefree, wherever you may be...