Friday, March 4, 2011

Chelsea Lately (and What It Means for Spurs)

Columnist Ed Speaking to One of His More Interested Readers
photo by Ambernectar 13via PhotoRee

The Episode in which Columnist Ed lays down on the couch and gets it off his chest:
Uh oh, it happened.  After getting smacked upside of the head for most of the season and then against United most of the first half, Chelsea decided to make a game of it and – for Arsenal and City – make a race of it.  Just when you thought the EPL season might be over, it started right up again.
Let’s put aside all the whining that I’m sure the bossman will be or has posted regarding the officiating.  I know, I know, it’s all so unfair.  Wah, wah, wah.  But the bottom line is that United were pushed and run around in the second half, and the team that won the game seemed the most deserving. 
As for Chelsea, as I think one very astute and handsome football observer noted during the transfer period, the pickup of Luiz was more important for Chelsea than the pickup of Fernando Llamas .... I mean, Torres.  Chelsea’s back four had been vulnerable this year due to a variety of factors:  (1) Alex’s injury; (2) Terry’s advancing years and slowing legs; (3) Jon Obi Mikel’s generally poor play; and (4) the lack of Lampard in the middle and the insertion of the much softer Ramires.  Well, Luiz took care of (1), and Lampard’s (triumphant) return took care of (2) through (4).  Now Chelsea is once again tough in the middle and, correspondingly, tough to beat.
Chelsea also went back to their more direct, bludgeoning style.  Lampard – the guy the bossman has written off – did well in securing the middle and managing the positioning of his teammates.  Essien looked something like the player he used to be I think in large part because of Lampard’s leadership in the center.  Finally, when Drogba joined the fray, Chelsea were able to push and shove and pounce their way to goals and victory.
That said, some things still puzzle me about Chelsea.  First, what happened to Malouda?  He went from dominant to a player that is constantly out of position, makes generally poor decisions, beats no one with the ball (he was up against O’Shea against United – that should’ve been a huge mismatch for him), and even crosses the ball erratically.  I suspect he needs a break.  Perhaps it was that world cup debacle.
Second, how many times do I have to watch Anelka smother and mis-hit a shot?  It’s painful, really.  He’s supposed to be a pro.  For someone with the size, speed and talent, he makes a shockingly small impact on the game.
Third, Ramires played his first good game of the year.  He was aggressive and effective on defense, and worked the ball quickly and efficiently on the offensive end.  Ramires is a much better player outside than in the center.
Fourth and finally, Drogba is a powerful guy.  It makes little sense that they brought in someone who plays the same position as he does, as he really shouldn’t be on the bench for big games. 
All of this said, the worst part of the Chelsea resurgence – if this one game can be considered one – is that Spurs are now under additional pressure to perform or be bumped out of the Champions League.  Ultimately, considering the money and strength of 6 of the clubs right now (United, City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal), it is arguable that the EPL should have more than 4 spots in the tournament.  But of course this change is not going to happen.  So it’s time for Spurs to buckle up because the trip to the finish is going to be a tough one.
On an unrelated side note, did anyone notice the Blackpool meltdown without Charlie Adam?  Egads, it’s painful how much they need him and have come to rely on him.  I noted the announcers considering Nani and Nasri as potential players of the year – how about Adam?  United and Arsenal without the aforementioned – still pretty good.  Blackpool without Adam?  Unwatchable.
This is farlieonfootie for March 4.

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