Why we lost and why I worry;
We are now out of the FA cup which in my opinion had been our best chance of getting a trophy this season. While as with every other blue fan I hold out hope for an unlikely BPL title at seasons end and an even less likely but yet possible Champions league double the realist in me has now come to peace that this will likely be a trophyless season for Chelsea FC.
The question that needs to be asked is why did we lose and should we be concerned and I offer my humble thoughts on both these burning questions.
Why did we lose? Jose took the easy way out in his post match conference by stating the obvious that City were the better team and had far more time of rest than us. That however glosses over several important points and gets him out of jail without him acknowledging his part in the debacle we saw yesterday.
Let me be clear..i love Jose and anyone who knows me and has been following what I have had to say regarding our managers knows this but I have been around enough to know that no man however much of a genius he is is without faults. Also any good student of history knows that history is littered with many examples of great men who made the fatal mistake of surrounding themselves with syncophants who only told them what they wanted to hear and not what they needed to hear and such men invariably ended up falling prey to believing their own hubris to be gospel truth.
The hard truth as to why we lost so comprehensively yesterday is that Manuel Pellegrini took Jose to school and thoroughly outcoached him. Jose was the main reason we won the prior tie against City ~ 2 weeks ago and he needs to fess up with himself that he (and not the players) is the main reason that we lost so woefully this time around.
Most of us realists knew the moment we drew City in the next round of the FA cup and had to play them at the Etihad that our chances of progression were slim. What the average fan however hoped for and expected was that we would at least show up and give a decent account of ourselves and that did not happen. The final scoreline said 2-0 but anyone who actually watched the match will acknowledge that the score line severely flattered us. The reality was that lady luck kept us from losing in the realms of 4 to 5 zero. Unless I am mistaken I don`t think we had one shot on goal that Pantimillion needed to save. That was the degree of domination we faced in the match. The whole performance was dull and limp.
Those who remember the article I had penned a few days before offering the there options available to Jose for the match line ups will realize that of the three Jose decided to go with option 3 which virtually no—one in the comments following the article chose. It proved to be a disastrous choice.
So why did we lose and why were we so poor? We lost because we ran into a side that has greater quality , greater depth and who were coached by a man who understands the need for squad rotation and implements it while our manager stubbornly persists with playing his perceived "first 11" no matter what.
That city top to bottom have better quality than we do is not subject to argument for those who are objective and we cant do anything about this at this point in the season so there is no point whining about it. That they have greater depth is also not arguable and we have ourselves to blame by thinning our own depth rather than enhancing it in the January window. What we should be concerned about and what I desperately hope that Jose`s advisers are telling him in private is that this stubborn persistence with no squad rotation unless forced by injury or total exhaustion is a recipe for disaster that may see us exit the champions league prematurely and may well scupper any chances we may have of stealing the BPL title.
Let us look at the respective line ups between us and city yesterday; Jose despite knowing full well that his preferred first team 11 played poorly against the Brommies just 3 days earlier (with many showing clear signs of fatigue) brought out the exact same line up except that since he decided to move Luiz to CB for the injured JT he then brought Mikel to replace him in midfield with matic. Other than these changes this was exactly the same team that flopped against the Brommies and yet approximately 2 weeks earlier had done marvelously against this same City squad at the Etihad.
Now contrast that with City. Pellegrini knew his team has a coming date with Barca and with that in mind he named a strong squad but with changes to ensure adequate rotation and to ensure his squad remained fresh. Most importantly the Engineer showed he is a man who learns from past mistakes.
In goal he kept faith with his designated Cup goalie Pantimillion while Jose decided to field the error prone Cech and deny Schwarzer the little game time he has so richly deserved. Go back and look at all the games Schwarzer played for us in the Capitol one and FA cup ..not one goal conceded was his fault. He is not spectacular but he is a very good goalie and most important to me, is not error prone. He deserved to start this match for us.
Pellegrini could see that Demichelles was a major weak link for them in their last match against us where he was in the mid field. He made sure the guy didn`t even see the pitch this time. He paired Kompany with Lescott (remember him..now people understand why I applauded Pellegrini for insisting that Lescott not be sold or loaned out this January window despite multiple interested parties)..that is what depth in a squad does when it is used ..it gives you different options and looks. Pellegrini used his, Jose refused to use his.
At left back Pellegrini saw from the last game that as good as Kolarov is going forward he was a liability defensively allowing Ivanovic have fun going forward and eventually scoring our winning goal. So what did he do, he rotated his squad and instead started the far more defensively competent Clichy and the effect was literally like magic. Ivanovic was largely pinned in his half with nothing to speak of achieved going forward.
Seeing that Yaya toure was over powered by Matic and Luiz in the last game and that Demichelles was essentially AWOL he brought in Garcia instead. Garcia wasn`t spectacular but was a major upgrade from Dimechelles allowing Toure to once more boss the midfield and that was where this last game was won and lost.
Finally on the right flank rather than tire out Jesus Navas (whose speed he will need against Barca on Tuesday) he started the hard working James Milner who while not being spectacular kept Cesar busy and did his assigned job very well.
Up top Pellegrini stayed true to his aggressive two striker formations but he learnt his lesson from our last encounter where our two CBs has Alvaro Negredo in their pockets and did not start him. Jovetic their 4th level striker in their depth chart paired with Dzeko and it is telling that without their top striker (Arguero) their 4th choice striker has far greater quality than any of our three. That is how dismal and depressing our striker situation is.
Going beyond the starting 11 for both sides though one only needs to look at the subs made to see again who was by far the superior manager on the day; Nasri for Jovetic (and the sub scored the second goal), Navas for Silva (thus giving Silva some rest after his man of the match performance) and Negredo for Dzeko (meaning Negredo will be well rested for Barca and yet ensuring that throughout the game they maintain a two striker front to keep us pegged in our half virtually all game).
Now compare that with Jose`s subs; Salah for Eto o ( a real head scratcher because with that for a period we didn`t even have one striker out there and we were down 1-0 at the time . Salah was virtually anonymous all game with no impact to speak of while at least Eto had been keeping Kompany and Lescott honest), El nino for Ramires (El nino was lively but had no service..Ramires was so knackered that Silva was out running and out hustling him..He should never have started this game in the first place) and finally Oscar for Willian (neither had any impact of note).
I go to this painful detail to make it clear just how much Pellegrini out did Jose by in this game. Honestly rather than Jose blaming fatigue I would have respected him more if he just owned up and gave props to Pellegrini while acknowledging that he totally bottled this.
My concern is that our holiday period is over; the champions league is back, we are now in the business end of the BPL season, having to play two games a week will now be the norm going forward till season`s end. Unless jose sees the error of his ways and starts using the entire 25 man squad at his disposal rest assured we will be dumped out of the Champions league post hence and can kiss any BPL title aspirations goodbye because continuing to play the same 14 or so players for every game unless injury or total exhaustion forces reactive (rather than proactive change) will mean many more performances like we have just seen against West Brom and now against City.
The question we also need to ask ourselves is how wise were some of the decisions we made this January transfer window? We gutted our squads depth and the only player we brought in who has been a clear plus has been Matic. It is true we have seen very little of Salah but that is on jose and honestly what I have seen so far has been very underwhelming..seriously why did we buy this guy and keep Moses rooted to the bench at Liverpool. Just go back and look at Moses`s stats from last year playing as a super sub for us. They are way better than Salah and Willian and that is the unalloyed objective truth. If Jose does not trust his second 11 squad of players we have major problems and it means contrary to what he has said come summer time we better be buying far more than just the "maximum of two players" he mentioned.
Left to me I am fed up with our one anemic striker formations and excess CAMS who just seem to be going round in circles rather than scoring or facilitating goals (Any wonder that Liverpool and City who lead the league in scoring both spot two striker formations predominantly?) and would like us to begin playing two striker formations more often.
Thus, I for one hope these rumors I am hearing of plans to sell Lukaku to partly fund a possible move for Cavani are nothing but drivel. Our side needs three at a minimum (and in my mind ideally 4) marquee goal scorers. We have no business selling our best young striker prospect. Did no one learn from the Danny Sturridge debacle? Isnt there anyone right now wondering whether the decisions to let go of KDB, Mata and Essien all mid season may have been unwise. The floor is yours Blue Nation but I beg Jose to stop being stubborn and be a little more willing to change his tactics because he needs to remember who his boss is.
This is Roman we are talking about, i am not sure how he will react if at season`s end we are trophyless while a team in our own league manages a domestic triple crown and maybe even an unprecedented quadruple. Jose, please for your sake and ours don`t push your luck too far, don`t tempt fate!!!