Frank Lampard midweek stated that Chelsea needed to work on set piece defense. Obviously the team needs to be completely retrained from scratch as two of them came to their undoing as Manchester United thrashed Chelsea 3-0 at Old Trafford setting them up to be league leaders should they win both of their games in hand.
Pathetic is an extremely kind word to describe how Chelsea defended the set pieces in this game. With Jose Mourinho in attendance giving Manchester United the once over in lieu of their Champions League ties coming up, Chelsea laid the biggest of rotten eggs. They looked a team that simply didn’t care, and Manchester United turned the screws where they were the weakest.
The first goal showed lesson number one on defending a corner kick, put one person on each post. It always amazes me when teams don’t do this, and Chelsea is guilty as charged. Vidic knew exactly where to head Berbatov’s flick on, where they were and where they should be. Regardless of Petr Cech’s positioning, he was never going to save that powerful a header.
While the second goal was from a brilliant piece of skill from Berbatov, Evra, and Wayne Rooney, the third goal broke two rules of defending set pieces. The first being, depending on where the free kick is taken from put people on the posts. The second being, know who you are responsible for. Cristiano Ronaldo perfectly placed that ball on the foot of Berbatov and no one for Chelsea seemed to know who was on him. Franco Di Santo looked to be the one who started on him, but John Terry ended up closest to Berbatov as he finished the set piece, and Chelsea’s chances of winning for good.
While it can be debated that a body on the near post wouldn’t have done much at stopping Berbatov’s goal, you just don’t give yourself the opportunity at stopping such a shot. As for the marking, it was obvious to me that the assignments were not as clear as they should have been, and the cross between zonal and man marking did them in. For a team that is suppose to be chasing the title, that is inexcusable behavior.
Graham Taylor of the BBC I feel sums up Chelsea perfectly right now. His quote is a very simple one, “I’d like to ask the Chelsea players if they are giving everything for the cause. I’d have to say they’re not.” Luiz Felipe Scolari from my eyes is getting very close to losing the respect of his players. Chelsea at this moment in time look to only be playing for themselves and not the cause of the team.
At the start of the season, I picked Chelsea to finish fourth. Right now they don’t even look UEFA Cup material. Manchester United on the other hand, are looking the champions Sir Alex Ferguson just expects them to be. As long as United keep plugging along, Liverpool had better watch out. It won’t be Chelsea on their heels, it will be Manchester United leaving them in the dust.