Before I begin, I want to say that I was completely heartbroken and devastated to see Frank Lampard pull on the sky blue shirt instead of the usual royal blue. I hardly knew how to react to the fact that he didn’t perform so well and had be replaced after 45 minutes. Of course, I love him but there is no way on this mindboggling earth that I would ever wish him the best when he is playing for City. Pellegrini better keeps him out of the squad next weekend!
Anyhow, back to Chelsea. Another convincing win. Another awesome day at the office for the two-star summer recruits. They seem to be doing everything that is going right for Chelsea currently, and everyone is looking at Chelsea and Mourinho totally star struck. And there are no more chants of “Boring, Boring Chelsea”. Of course, it is extremely difficult to criticize a team playing at such tempo but naysayers are quick to point to the fact that Chelsea are only a Diego Costa injury away from tragedy, especially when all of six assists of Cesc Fabregas has come for Diego Costa.
We have also conceded goals uncharacteristically. And that further raises the question that if Fabregas or Costa were to get injured, what would become of this splendid run? Answering such ambiguous questions can be difficult, and I always seem to turn to data to analyse exactly what is happening, is it just the impact of the new players or is it a more holistic change and if it is, what exactly is being done differently to effect that change? So before everything, a look at the numbers:
|Diego Costa||7||Cesc Fabregas||6|
|Eden Hazard||1||Nemanja Matic||1|
|Ramires||1||Jon Obi Mikel||1|
So as everyone is saying and as has been analysed a hundred times before, the impact players are clearly Costa and Fabregas. But look at the rest of the numbers. Two things standout: Ramires having three assists and Hazard having zero assists and only one goal. You compare these numbers with last year; you’d say Ramires has really got his head around this Chelsea team, considering the few opportunities that he has had, and Hazard is struggling. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A lot of managers, especially when they have players like Hazard, tend to use the width that the style of play of Hazard can offer. Two things happen here:
a) This pulls the opposition defense apart with usually one of the defensive midfielders helping the left/right back, and;
b) It provides more space for the defensive midfielders of the attacking side to get involved in the attack. On both sides of Hazard, the personnel has changed this season, and that evidently has had an impact that everybody is raving about. But looking at the number of passes that Hazard has made before the assist, he remains extremely vital to the cause of the team, and it is his absence that could cost us dear more than that of Fabregas or Costa individually.
Secondly, there seems to be a number of game plans at Mourinho’s disposal – all tried and tested. There is the 4-2-3-1, the 4-3-3, the 4-1-4-1, or the last year’s 4-2-3-1 with more defensive impetus. And that is what makes me confident of the Chelsea start this season. Crucially, it does not seem like the start of 2010-11 season under Ancelotti. Mourinho likes to start with a 4-2-3-1 that ensures his defensive line is well covered. But he has no problem is shifting to a 4-3-3 or a 4-1-4-1 depending upon how he looks at the attacking threat of the opposition. An opposition with not so pacey wingers could see him deploy a 4-3-3. Opposition whose attacks flow from the flanks, like Swansea, could make him set his team up to a 4-1-4-1. I think it’s the role that wingers play and how forward they play in a given game that helps spot the system.
So those are the crucial two bits that I think Chelsea are doing differently this season. At some point in the season, our players will get injured, and we will have to grind out results like last season. But that’s alright. I can live with it, safe in the knowledge that Real Madrid wouldn’t score so many goals without Ronaldo or Barca won’t be so dominating without Messi. Even they have to grind out results and so will we.
What do you think? Also, predictions for the City game? I know Schalke is just one day away, but c’mon! A few Zouma tackles, some decent Lewis Baker through balls with inch perfect crosses from Felipe Luis and good finishes by Loic Remy should take care of them. No?