Winter is coming. And you know what that means: a run of unexplained futility from Chelsea Football Club.
Chelsea didn't play well enough for three points. That's basically the whole story. Next up are West Bromwich Albion away -- and if a performance like this happens again, we're in pretty big trouble.
- Graham, Liverpool match report (Nov. 11 2012)
Yeah, MacAree had that one spot on.
A supremely wasteful Chelsea left Roberto Di Matteo with little to smile about on his return to the West Midlands, as his former employer, West Bromwich Albion, relied on a pair of headed goals to extend Chelsea's latest cold-weather wobble. The Blues have now failed to record three points in their last four Premier League matches, and now sit four points behind league-leading Manchester City. Hey, at least Manchester United lost, right?
Wrong. This blip is not exactly a major worry but it's a worry nonetheless. What is it with this time of the year and the Winter Solstice? Damn Jack Frost. Damn him to hell!
Apologies, Mr. Frost. I got a bit carried away. I love you and your luscious white flakes.
Anyway. About the match. It wasn't exactly must-see fare for Chelsea supporters.
Ryan Bertrand had a wobbly shot cleared off the line in the early exchanges, and it looked as if this Chelsea side - the youngest fielded by the club in the league in eight years, I believe - was anxious to wipe the memory of the Liverpool result swiftly from the memory. Instead, Saturday's match only served to remind us all of what had been an issue against Liverpool and others - finishing.
Finishing wasn't really on the mind after 10 minutes, though. Not when Shane Long gave West Brom the lead. The Irish international took advantage of a daydreaming David Luiz, ghosting in behind the defender to head home James Morrison's cross at the far post.
There was more to come from Long, too, who made our starting striker (Umm) look, well, inept. Can we trade? Yeah, sure. Jibes at Fernando Torres aside, there really was a gulf in play between he and Long Saturday. While Long was consistently involved - holding up play, getting teammates involved, et al. - Torres was drifting further and further out of the match. I don't recall seeing much of him after he failed to receive a free kick in a challenge with Claudio Yacob during the opening 45 minutes. Long, meanwhile, playing about a day after the passing of his grandmother, went on to set up Peter Odemwingie's winner five minutes into the second half. It was another header, this one at the expense of Ryan Bertrand who lost track of Odemwingie at the near post.
Odemwingie's goal upstaged Eden Hazard's headed goal in the 39th minute. César Azpilicueta's played provider for the Belgian, and once again was seriously impressive. This kid is going to make for an excellent fullback in due time. Sadly, the Spaniard's performance was of only a few worth noting. Chelsea was not the well-oiled attacking machine we've come to expect this season. Hell, that Chelsea hasn't really been center stage for some time now.
Oriol Romeu was lost, as he has been all season. Hazard didn't find his touch until making the move to the left side. Bertrand was muted. Our defense in general felt uninspired. You expect disjointedness from a side featuring so many changes, but not to this extent. Victor Moses was again promising, but the side as an overall unit didn't look that great until the introduction of, you guessed it, Oscar and Juan Mata.
Their addition meant the withdrawal of Torres and Romeu, and the restructuring of the team. This saw Daniel Sturridge move into the central role, and we were much more threatening in this composition. Of course, this could simply be a byproduct of having two elite playmakers like Mata and Oscar on the pitch. I'm not sure about that, though. As Stephen said in the initial reaction piece, I'll take this result if it means Torres is dropped.
As for Sturridge, he had a host of chances to pull us level only to fluff a couple and be denied by an inspired Boaz Myhill on another couple of occasions. On any other day you feel like Chelsea would have bagged four. However, I've felt like that a lot recently. Just as Graham found it difficult to say we deserved anything out of the Liverpool match, I find it tough to say we deserved anything out of this one. We just didn't do enough to convince. You can talk about rotation all you want - I personally applaud the move by Di Matteo - but this result wasn't about that. It was about a lack of general organization and finishing.
Here's to hoping we'll have much of this ironed out by Tuesday's trip to Turin.