When looking back at the 2010-2011 season there was only one real stand out match for Chelsea which was positive, the home fixture against Manchester United. This fixture was the start of a small turn-around in the season, a lift that was needed for us to at least challenge for the title, in fact at half time in this fixture we were 18 points adrift of our opposition, the next time we faced them we closed down that deficit to just 3. This match showed some of the qualities we needed for large parts of last season’s relatively poor show, determination, pace, passion and attacking intent.
The first half of this fixture was largely dominated by Manchester United, initially we started well however they got more of the ball and started to create chances, most of the damage was done on their left hand side, Rooney for large periods of the game came deep, being the supporting striker while Hernandez was the main striker. It took half an hour for United to score, Wayne Rooney firing in a thunderous strike which to be fair to United gave them a deserved lead. At the end of the first Chelsea had a fantastic opportunity which was somehow kept out. The second half however was completely different and was the best half of football Chelsea had in the season, David Luiz inspirational, Ramires hard-working on the right hand side and collectively the best team performance that season. The partnership of Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka seemed to work and when Drogba came on for Anelka even the partnership of Torres and Drogba worked, Drogba coming deep and holding off opposition defenders. David Luiz was mightily impressive in the match, although could have been sent off and arguably deservedly so. He kept Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney relatively quiet. He also showed that he was comfortable in possession and coming out with the ball, topping it off by scoring a fantastic goal which was timed to perfection.
It was clear to see the differing approaches to the game when looking at the statistics in terms of wing play, there were 92 passes down the wing for Chelsea while for Manchester United there were 146, which highlights the differing systems, although both teams were 4-4-2 the players operating down the wings and the styles of play were different. Nani is a player who hugs the touchline while Ramires is naturally a central midfielder however due to his hard working nature was employed down the right to help Ivanovic deal with the threat of Nani. Below is a chalkboard of Nani and how he largely operates on the touchlines as well as being able to switch flanks, the pace and trickery down United’s left was key to their attacks, especially in the first half when most of the problems for Chelsea come from that right hand side.
Florent Malouda in the previous season was part of a front three with Drogba and Anelka and as such has a tendency to come inside, his replacement Yuri Zhirkov was the player fouled for the penalty by United highlighting the fact that although Chelsea were playing a 4-4-2, it wasn’t one where the wingers were hugging the touchline like Nani for example. The two chalkboards below show the differing influences of Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole, as Malouda comes inside Cole naturally has to provide most of the width, the same can be said for Branislav Ivanovic on the right with Ramires coming inside as he is naturally a central midfielder, all the analysis on formation and tactics show that Chelsea rely too heavily on full backs for width and as such need more ‘natural’ wingers, in a wider context Chelsea need more creative players.
All the positives in this game, as previously mentioned, were aspects of our game that we need to improve on in order to challenge for the title and the Champions League. We were direct, we had pace and we had players that seemed to care, for too many periods of last season we were slow, we lacked an alternative and players seemed not to care. This was obviously hampered by injuries to key players such as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien however we relied on a few key players far too much and when these players were out of form we suffered, we need better options on the bench as well as much more creativity from midfield, hopefully with a few signings and a different style of football thanks to new Chelsea manager Andre Villas Boas we will hopefully see good football as well as winning football in the coming season.