Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League table was reduced to six points Saturday after Fabian Delph’s second half goal at Villa Park. Chelsea’s evening went from bad to worse against Aston Villa, as they had Willian and Ramires sent off, which means the Brazilian duo will miss next week’s game against Arsenal. After such a miserable defeat, here are 3 talking points for Chelsea to dwell upon.
1) Chelsea needs a lot more from their attacking midfielders
Chelsea’s over-reliance on Eden Hazard has become a weakness for the Blues. Somehow, the Belgian looked short of ideas in attack, which resulted in Chelsea’s failure to threaten Brad Guzan in the Aston Villa goal. Under Mourinho, the former Lille playmaker made a slow start to life but gradually started picking up pace and steadily became Chelsea’s leading man.
On the other hand, Oscar had a completely different story. The young Brazilian was seen by Mourinho as the man around whom he wanted to build his new side, even at the expense of selling Juan Mata (Chelsea player of the year for last two consecutive seasons), but Oscar’s drop in form at an alarming rate is not only a worrying sign for Chelsea but for Brazil as well.
Oscar’s Brazilian partner Willian too has failed to make a strong impact, which many expected from him over the past few weeks. It looks commendable to watch the former Shakhtar Donetsk playmaker’s excellent energy levels and amazing track backs, but compared to Hazard, Willian’s inability to score goals or provide assists on a regular basis makes the team too dependent on the Belgian.
Willian’s red card means a nod could be given to Andre Schurrle from the start against Arsenal, and the German should continue his decent run of form. The idea wouldn’t be so bad, giving him more time in the starting XI.
2) Is a left-back really required?
As per Mourinho’s thinking, Cesar Azpilicueta is a very intelligent player. Despite this being his first season in the new role, the right-footed left-back has made it his position in the starting XI, keeping Ashley Cole out (who is arguably the best left-back in the league presently). The only silver lining for Chelsea in a dismal away performance against Villa was Azpilicueta’s display. The man who is referred as ‘Dave’ attempted 64 passes in the match, completing 56 of them.
This season, Azpilicueta has been Chelsea’s unsung hero. Eden Hazard has been given the most credit but Azpilicueta has been a regular performer at the back for Chelsea. The level of Azpilicueta’s performance has been consistent, be it in games against Arsenal and Manchester City or Crystal Palace or Norwich.
With Cole’s contract ending this June, there are talks of the club signing a new player, with Luke Shaw the most likely candidate. But does Chelsea need to shell out €20 million to €30 million for a position where they look already well assured? Also, in Patrick Vann Aanholt and Ryan Bertrand, the Blues have decent quality in reserve.
3) The league table is absolutely fake
Everything Mourinho speaks nowadays is chalked down to mind games. From picking on Arsene Wenger in press conferences, to calling Chelsea the ‘little horse’ in the league. But over the past few weeks, one thing Mourinho said was right. The league table is fake, and it was always Manchester City’s to lose.
“You look at the table and, if you have just the number of points, the table is fake. Before the number of points is the number of matches. We could have 30 points more than them and have played 10 matches more, so it means nothing.”
By beating Hull City away from home with 10 men, after Vincent Kompany was shown a red card inside the first ten minutes of the game, Manchester City put on their finest performance in the league this season. Just like Chelsea, even City have had striking issues over the past few weeks, but the team had David Silva to thank for getting them three valuable points, which means that if they win their two games in hand, they will move ahead of Chelsea on goal difference.
However Manchester City have games against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool in the coming few weeks. There does not seem to be any denial that by the looks of it, Chelsea’s fixture list this season is the easiest of all the title contenders but it could come to haunt them if they continue to encounter such failures as they did against Aston Villa.