Saturday, September 1, 2012

Champions of Europe?

photo by rockcohenvia PhotoRee

Long time readers of this space will know of our deep admiration for Los Colchoneros, which may offer up some considerable insight into which side we were rooting for in last night's UEFA Super Cup. For those of you who don't know, that means Atletico Madrid, the La Liga side which faced off against Chelsea in Monaco in a fairly artificial "title fight" to determine European bragging rights.

If you've been hiding under a rock, or if you somehow managed to miss the fine print in the UEFA bylaws, the European "Super Cup" pits the winner of the past season's Champions League against the victor of last season's Europa League. As winners of the "bigger" contest, and fresh off their free-scoring start to the season, it's fair to say that Chelsea entered the contest as prohibitive favorites. After witnessing the carnage, though, perhaps the most appropriate thing one can say about the match is "That's why they play the game."

Chelsea fielded what is debatably their strongest eleven for the contest, with the lone exception of the suspended John Terry (who you might remember also failed to make a certain game in Munich last season). But at the risk of mixing a metaphor, Athleti made mincemeat out of Chelsea's Swiss Cheese defense, as their Colombian superstar Falcao tore the Blues a new one with a first half hat trick that led to an easy 4-1 victory.

Surprising?  A bit. But the game also confirms our suspicion that although they may lead the League at the current moment, this Chelsea club is way too leaky at the back to seriously challenge for the title. Time and again the centre back combination of Gary Cahill and David Luiz were made to look pedestrian -- in plain Englush they were clueless, and repeatedly caught out.   At one point things got so bad that even when the Chelsea back line were able to keep the ball in front of them, they made another cardinal mistake: ball watching.

Sure, Chelsea may score goals in buckets this season -- that obviously assumes Hazard and Torres are able to keep their current form for the entire campaign. But even if they do, the Blues are much more likely to win a game 3-2 than they are to grind out a 1-0 victory like the Chelsea squads of Mourinho and Ancelloti.  This new open style may be pretty to watch against the Readings and the Wigans of the world, but it won't look so spiffy when pitted against the other title contenders.

Eden Hazard famously tweeted that he wanted to join the "Champions of Europe."  We hope he was using that honorific in the past tense, because from what we can tell, he's a long way off from being part of a team that will repeat that one anytime soon.

This is Farlieonfootie for September 1, remembering to say "Rabbit Rabbit" on the first day of the month.

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