Chelsea v Stoke could be described as a good, old-fashioned tussle between two sides who were physical and direct, the game arguably was one of, as the old cliché goes, two halves. In the first Stoke caused Chelsea some problems with their physical nature and Chelsea couldn’t really create any clear cut chances, when it came to the second half however it was a whole different story, Chelsea could have easily had two penalties and hit the woodwork. One of the key outcomes of this game was a rejuvenated Fernando Torres, one who looked sharper, more willing to fight, more willing to receive the ball and a man with purpose. This is where the midfield comes in to play, for all Torres’ hard work there wasn’t the service from midfield that we would expect, the wide players, Kalou and Malouda were woefully short of what is expected of them and although Ramires appeared to have a good game Frank Lampard was slow, pedestrian and a shadow of his former self. Although many would say this is overly critical, Frank isn’t the player needed to create chances for strikers.
The heatmap above of both Malouda and Kalou show exactly why they were short of what was expected, Kalou didn’t make a single successful pass inside the penalty area, Malouda, apart from corners only made one. Although Malouda had a 76% pass completion he only made two chances in the whole match while Kalou with a 67% pass completion only made the one chance. These two players are supposed to be wingers and provide service to the strikers, or in this case striker and this didn’t happen on Sunday. The problem is that neither are really natural wingers, in fact Chelsea don’t have natural wingers at all in their squad, Sturridge and Anelka are other candidates to play in those wide positions but both of those are naturally strikers who are deployed as wingers. This highlights a clear problem at Chelsea, we have no natural wingers who can really cause defenders problems as well as providing accurate crosses, gone are the days of Duff and Robben, fast, tricky wide-men who could provide crosses as well as being able to come inside and cause problems.
Looking at Frank Lampard a similar problem is evident as well as Ramires, both of these players are the more attacking midfielders in Chelsea’s midfield three, John Obi Mikel being the holding player. Although Ramires made some fantastic runs he isn’t a creative player as such, someone who can unlock doors, the same goes for Lampard. The problem with Lampard is that he never really had that much of a creative eye in terms of creating chances however he more than made up with that by goals, however those days seem gone with his age and injury of last season. Although his passing was accurate, at 79%, the passes that were made weren’t probing and didn’t really give Torres the service he deserves.
In terms of Torres himself, he had 4 shots, although seems small was the most he’s had in a game for Chelsea, this in one of the toughest away games that there is, he was marked by Huth and Shawcross and could have easily gained a penalty. Sharp, intelligent play which was sorely missed when he joined last January, he made probing runs, 5 in fact. In the first half he was very unlucky after weaving in and out before Shawcross stuck a leg out belatedly which took the ball away from Torres’ path while he was about to shoot. It was exciting for Chelsea fans to see him finally starting to show what he can really do albeit without a goal, it would probably be too far and early to say that the old Torres is back but it certainly was a performance of real promise. The one thing that is lacking is service from midfield for him to score goals, this showing was the first time really where he inspired fans with confidence and hopefully this form continues.