Monday, August 17, 2015

The couch trip: Chelsea don't need a doctor, they need a shrink

In the end it had nothing to do with doctors, though that's not to say they weren't needed. But perhaps what Chelsea need right now is not the enormous medical staff José Mourinho claimed on Friday he has such a clearly fantastic working relationship with, but an army of shrinks to figure out what it is that ails the [London] Blues so much.

In any case, yesterday's encounter at the Etihad Stadium should not be - and certainly wasn't - about Chelsea. Manchester City were magnificent. They were everything their opponents haven't been since their pre-season and the season itself kicked off.

Twitter/Chelsea FC
In Sergio Agüero, they had a striker who, were it not for Asmir Bergovic repeatedly proving his doubters very wrong in the first half, could have had Chelsea reeling by half-time. 

In David Silva, they had a constant irritant who put a very blinding spotlight on Chelsea's sudden defensive frailties. In Yaya Touré and Fernandinho, they had a midfield engine that both provided and protected, even if the latter's version of protection would have given the Soprano crew a run for their money with his red card for-sure elbow on Costa. 

And, as painful as it is to admit it - because I've never been much of a fan - Vincent Kompany marshalled the City defence with such efficiency that Chelsea's spearhead of Costa, Hazard and Willian was largely blunt, with Joe Hart - he of the Son of Trump hair - having precious little to contend with all afternoon.

3-0 is not the scoreline I would have predicted between "the former champions and the champions", as Mourinho had cheekily described the teams in a pre-match interview with Sky. But still, Chelsea's early season lethargy may prove costly, given how imperious City looked yesterday. Any slip-up next Sunday at West Brom and serious questions will start getting asked about how a club can win the Barclays Premier League at a canter, and yet just three months later look so average.

Twitter/Chelsea FC

There is something of a delicious irony about the rumours still surrounding Manuel Pellegrini's future, and City's apparent desire to bring in Pep Guardiola, It wasn't that long ago that Roman Abramovich was, allegedly, desperate to bring in the Spaniard, before accepting that he and Mourinho were, like star-crossed lovers, a foregone conclusion.

One wonders, though, how that relationship is faring now. Of course, with Mourinho, everything and anything he says or does has a touch of Machiavelli about it. Publicly berating his popular first team doctor for, as we now know, just doing her job, was a clear case of being irked by a poor team performance. 

Claims yesterday that City's performance in the second half was "fake" and that - same old chestnut time! - Chelsea were, in fact, the better team is simply a load of old bollocks that no one swallows, if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor. Chelsea were poor and José knows it.

There is some credibility to the theory that Mourinho replaced John Terry with Kurt Zouma to "send a message" to Mr. Abramovich that reinforcements were needed. If so, it wouldn't be the first time he's done that sort of thing (two years ago he selected a side bereft of any recognised strikers for a game against Manchester United, seemingly to prove to club hierarchy that he'd run out of them. No surprise, then, that Costa arrived so early in the club's preparations for the following season).

It may have been significant that John Terry was substituted yesterday for the first time in a Premier League match under Mourinho, but to be fair, the manager could have taken off any one of his four defenders, such was their lack of cohesion. 

Indeed, the worst offender was probably Ivanovic, who should have done much, much more to prevent City's second goal, and a lazy clearance set-up City's third. This defence, after all, is the chassis of the very bus that Mourinho has been so frequently accused of parking. But right now, it looks like a rusty old Routemaster waiting to be scrapped. 

The signing of Ghanaian left-back Abdul Baba Rahman - announced less than an hour after the final whistle yesterday - couldn't have come soon enough. While he is, like Bergovic and Falcao, just a straight replacement (in this case, for Felipe Luis), any fresh blood in the defence at this stage can only be a good thing: competition for the jaded looking Azpilicueta, or the opportunity to move him over to right back and challenge Ivanovic, or for Zouma to play more and challenge both Terry and Cahill, in principle, still the best central defensive partnership in the league. 

Chelsea might be lacking in the goals department, but they shouldn't be shipping them at the other end, and that comes down to a defence that just doesn't look like they are talking to each other at all. Perhaps spending £30 million or more for John Stones will get the conversation started...

1 comment:

  1. A well-balanced blog for a Chelsea fan! Good job Simon. Like to read WWDBD! Gert