When Nicolas Anelka arrived at Stamford Bridge 13 months ago, pundits everywhere talked up the possibility of a devastating strike partnership between him and Didier Drogba. Even Drogba himself described the potential pairing as “terrifying.” One year later, however, it’s become plainly obvious that the strike partnership everyone wants is simply never going to materialize.
Anyone could see in Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at home today against Hull City that Drogba and Anelka simply don’t provide the offensive spark the Blues need. To be sure, Chelsea had their opportunities throughout the day — as did Hull — but Drogba’s entrance in the game after an hour didn’t give Chelsea any extra scoring threat. Perhaps against a West Brom or a Newcastle, Drogba and Anelka could have teamed up on a goal, but against a Hull side that showed a good amount of fight today, they produced nothing.
There are plenty of reasons why this strike partnership is doomed to failure. The personalities of these two players might have something to do with it. Drogba has been in the doghouse at Chelsea and has made no secret that he doesn’t want to be there anymore, and when Anelka isn’t the primary target up front, he tends to sulk. He seemed to live up to that sulking reputation today, fading into the background whenever Drogba entered into play.
A bigger deterrent, however, might be the fact that Chelsea simply doesn’t use a 4-4-2 formation. Luiz Felipe Scolari has stuck with the 4-3-3 formation that took Chelsea to the UEFA Champions League final last year, and that formation doesn’t lend itself to the talents Drogba and Anelka bring to the table. Only one of them can fit in the center of that front line, and with Drogba on the outs at Stamford Bridge, Anelka will get the nod from Scolari every time.
Why Chelsea won’t change their formation remains a mystery. Maybe Scolari believes this is still the best formation for his side. Maybe Roman Abramovich has demanded that Chelsea stay in the 4-3-3. (We all know he’s not above tinkering with the lineup.) Maybe Drogba’s petulance has forced everyone’s hand. We don’t know for certain.
All we really know is that no one will ever be terrified by the partnership of Drogba and Anelka, because that partnership never materialized and probably never will. It’s far from the only reason Chelsea suddenly find themselves in fourth place today — injuries to Michael Essien and Joe Cole certainly haven’t helped — but it’s definitely played a role.