Chelsea climbed back into the top three of the Premier League with a 2-1 victory over Sunderland as Paolo Di Canio’s first game in charge ended in a narrow and unfortunate defeat.
What We Learned :
1. Fernando Torres LOOKS to be back
2. John Obi Mikel is Chelsea’s best holding midfielder
3. Poor performances from Mata, Hazard and Ba
4. Mikel-Ramires play well in the double pivot
5. Ryan Bertrand and David Luiz starting to prove a point
1. Fernando Torres LOOKS to be back:
I don’t want to get carried away and be completely optimistic here, hence why I put the emphasis on “looks”. Fernando Torres had another fantastic performance following his brace against Rubin Kazan. He didn’t score, but after he was introduced, there was an immediate impact. The much-maligned Spaniard made an instant impact as a half-time substitute. He flew past two Sunderland defenders before picking out Oscar, who then forced the own goal. Easily one of his better performances this season. These 2 performances have certainly given Torres some much needed confidence, he seems to be owning up to his lack of success at Chelsea. And after his interview following the 13/14 kit promo, Torres seems hungry to prove his doubters wrong.
2. John Obi Mikel is Chelsea’s best holding midfielder:
Superb performance from the Nigeria international, he fared well in the physical battle in midfield against N’Diaye and rarely made a bad pass. John Obi Mikel is the best defensive midfielder that Chelsea has, the statistics prove that. He is calm on the ball, a competent tackler and rarely makes mistakes. Against Bayern Munich and Barcelona he had to be excellent as Chelsea were constantly under attack, especially at the Nou Camp. Mikel is the one of the best in the Premier League, he’s calm and composed on the ball, very accurate passing wise and can certainly make the right challenges. Mikel was huge in our CL success, shame that he no longer has Meireles beside him.
3. Poor performances from Mata, Hazard and Ba:
Hazard – Didn’t influence the game in the first half in the manner he usually does. He had one chance before the break and he could have perhaps done more with a close range header. His second half performance was slightly better but it also tailed off late on.
Mata – The first half passed by with the Chelsea fans waiting for their star man to exert his influence. He wasn’t his usual self in the first period and despite an improved display after the break, it seems like sheer number of games might be catching up to him.
Demba Ba – Won his fair share of aerial duels in the first half without ever getting a clear goalscoring opportunity. Was replaced at the break after failing to recover from a crunching tackle from Gardner.
Hazard, Mata and Ba weren’t up to their usual selves and there’s nothing wrong with a little slip up in form, but it could be coming at the worst time for Chelsea.
4. Mikel-Ramires play well in the double pivot:
The Mikel-Ramires combination more than seems to works for us whenever Rafa decides to play them. They provide a good balance of attack and defense not making us that vulnerable at the back or making us too slow going forward. These 2 worked our comeback at Old Trafford and they certainly did an amazing job in the middle of the pitch for us today. Mikel did little wrong, made some important challenges and kept Chelsea ticking over nicely in the middle of the pitch against United and today. Ramires did more defensive work than he is generally associated with, leaving the attacking to his team-mates. Had a pretty anonymous first half but made some key challenges after the break.
5. Ryan Bertrand and David Luiz starting to prove a point:
From the last What We Learned :
Bertrand – Let’s face it, none of us ever believed that Bertrand could be a possible replacement for Ashley Cole. He still isn’t but has two weeks to prove himself. He gave in a good performance against United after coming on for the English veteran and then gave in a terrific performance against Kazan. He got forward at will and showed a nice set of skills in doing so. His recovery was also good and with the wingers also helping out in defense, he had a stellar game. Ryan won’t get a lot of chances, and its moments like these where he has to make the most of what he has.
Luiz – That pass from Luiz was world-class. Not what you would expect from a supposed center-back. It was inch perfect and found Torres right where he wanted. Even though he had to squirm the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net, without that defense splitting lob, nothing would have been possible. His concentration was immense, and was commanding in the air. Alongside JT, he denied Kazan any kind of space and got forward as many times as he could. The possibility of him being a CDM next season is very much open. With the set of skills he has now, he could flourish in that role.
This time :
Luiz – The Brazilian’s passing from the back was impressive with the Blues’ attacks often starting from his distribution out of defence. Didn’t have too much on his plate defensively. His shot brought about the Blues’ second goal. An injury then threatened to cut his afternoon short but he managed to complete the 90 minutes.
Bertrand – Did himself no harm in deputising for the injured Ashley Cole. He was up and down the left flank from the first minute to the last. His tackling was also well-timed in dangerous positions.
Luiz and Bertrand have done well as of late and are proving a point that they deserve to be in Chelsea’s starting XI. I’d prefer Cahill to Luiz, but next season, I’d like to see Luiz-Cahill play together with Terry jumping in occasionally. Bertrand isn’t the greatest left-back in the world, but given Ashley’s Cole inconsistencies and struggles, Ryan Bertrand could see more starts next season and could even be the starter when Cole leaves (should his 1 year contract not be extended next season).
Other Points :
1. Benitez shows that league is still a priority
2. Lack of Marko Marin (again) could make the departure rumours seem more likely