Why Chelsea Need a Creative Spark.
After having supported Chelsea for over 15 years, I can honestly say there have only been two occasions in memory where I have been worried and frustrated by Chelsea's lack of thrust and creativity from midfield. Somewhat surprisingly, both of these have come since the arrival of Roman Abramovich. Under Luis Felipe Scolari, the Blues were on their knees at this stage of the season. Rumours of dressing room disharmony, power struggles and the reluctance to dip into the transfer market left Scolari's side looking rank outsiders to even challenge for the now coveted 4th place in the Premier League. Of course, we all know what happened next. Scolari was sacked, and Guus Hiddink took charge, revitalising the squad and almost coming away with three trophies.
Yet there are strange similarities between Scolari's Chelsea and the side which has come under so much criticism this season. The midfield looks so pedestrian at times, it is hardly surprising that Chelsea are only in 4th, and only the ineptitude of Arsenal and Liverpool is keeping them there. As a Chelsea fan this term, I am extremely frustrated and almost jealous of other teams ability to move the ball so much more quickly than we can. For all the midfield's grit and determination, the snail's pace at which the ball is moved makes it extremely difficult for that "moment of magic" to occur. So often this season, teams have been happy to sit back and soak up Chelsea "pressure" knowing full well that they will more than likely resort to hoofing it into the penalty area in the vain hope that Didier Drogba will conjure up something. With the Ivorian more a squad player than out and out first choice this season, this further dries up Chelsea's goal threat.
There has been much talk of Chelsea's dodgy defence all season long, with John Terry a fading force, and David Luiz intent on giving all Chelsea fans a mild heart attack every time he gets the ball. However, I would argue that the midfield is the bigger problem. Frank Lampard is, lets face it, not the player he once was, and is clearly not fancied by Andre Villas- Boas. Ramires works his socks off but is not the man to score 15 goals a season or provide 10 assists. Raul Meireles has flattered to deceive since his arrival, and the less said about John Obi Mikel, Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou the better. The one shining light has been the exceptional Spaniard Juan Mata, and he has been a revelation since his arrival. However, I feel he is too often wasted in wide positions making it difficult for him to really assert complete influence on the game.
One has to admire Villas-Boas for his footballing philosophy and understandably it will take time to overhaul a Chelsea side which is so ingratiated into the Mourinho mentality. Yet, the money is there to spend for the manager, and at the time of writing (4.30pm) on transfer deadline day, Chelsea do not appear to have approached any clubs for that vital "creative" wizard. Kevin De Bruyne is an interesting signing, yet he is still very young with it all to prove, and, in any case, will not play for Chelsea until next season. Much remains to be seen whether or not Chelsea can challenge for any silverware this term. The Premier league is all but over and I have real concerns over whether or not we can outmuscle Napoli over two legs in the Champions League. This just leaves the FA Cup as the only realistic trophy to challenge for; something which Abramovich will surely be dissastisfied by.