The Antagonist - Chelsea count the cost of complacency
Published: 19 Mar 2010 - 07:42:33
'After the Lord Mayor's show', would be an apt description of Chelsea's inept display against Inter on Tuesday night following the master classes given by Arsenal and Man United last week.
Leaving aside the Mourinho factor for the moment, Chelsea were outplayed , outthought and outmanouevered by a well drilled, more imaginative outfit and thoroughly deserved to be left to concentrate on domestic honours for the rest of the season.
On that performance you wouldn't put your shirt on them succeeding there either.
Let's not kid ourselves that Inter are a great side. After all, they are in the middle of a fairly mediocre spell in a below-par Serie A at the moment and are only one point ahead of AC Milan - who were made to look very much second rate by United last week.
Chelsea are at their best when sides come to the Bridge in awe of them and approach matches in a damage limitation mode. Inter were not prepared to do this and took the game to the Blues whilst, at the same time stifling them in midfield and cutting out the service to Drogba and Anelka who were anonymous throughout.
The whole team, rather like their vacuous looking manager staring blankly into the ether, looked uninspired and unable to adapt their tactics or raise their game to counter the Inter threat.
The back four looked visibly petrified whenever the ball came anywhere near rookie keeper Turnbull who, in the event, was, ironically, probably the least culpable for Chelsea's eventual demise.
The enigma that is Frank Lampard had his Mr Hyde hat on again and was totally unable to impose himself on the game. We cannot take all the credit away from Inter for this but you begin to wonder whether Lampard is a bit of a fair weather player who thrives when things are tickety boo, but struggles a bit when his team are up against it.
He likes to boss the game, getting into attacking, goal scoring positions. When he can achieve this he looks a world beater but, when he can't, he seems to run out of ideas and drifts out of games.
This, I believe is the main reason that he doesn't play well with Stevie Gerrard. They both like to be the central hub, the playmaker who gets into the box on the end of things. There is, realistically, only room for one player like that in any team. Lampard does it for Chelsea but Gerrard is, as James Corden once said, "a teensy bit better" and cramps Lampard's style in the England set up.
His style was cramped on Tuesday, but by Inter rather than a team-mate.
Joe Cole looked a pale shadow of his former self when he came on for a brief cameo for the final quarter of the match. He has had his fitness problems and contractual difficulties and perhaps his rather sporadic appearances of late are making him believe that his face does not really fit with Ancelotti. This is not the best mindset for a player who, in the right form, and in the absence of our Lord David could still be an integral part of our World Cup campaign.
BITTERNESS AT THE BRIDGE
The nasty side of Chelsea surfaced again towards the end of the game with John Terry (will he ever learn?) whingeing , completely unjustifiably, at the referee and Drogba getting his almost customary Champions League marching orders.
Whatever happened to dignity in defeat?
After all Chelsea could have no real complaints. They had a couple of half-hearted penalty appeals, both of which were deemed unsubstantiated by the pundits after replays from every imaginable angle and were on the receiving end of the best chances in the match.
Returning to Mourinho (an almost inevitable occurrence) the Special One proved that he can send a side out to attack rather than implement the 'contain and counter' philosophy upon which he built his reputation.
His change of approach was conceived predominantly to nullify Chelsea's effectiveness but this more 'gung-ho' attitude, albeit exercised with a certain degree of control, will also have enhanced his prospects of succeeding Sir Alex at Old Trafford, a position he has openly coveted.
Where next for Chelsea?
Paradoxically, I think that their strengths, at times, become their weaknesses. Their total self belief and desire to create a siege mentality (which is typified by JT) sometimes blinds players and management alike to the fact that being better than another team on paper is not always enough. Guile, adaptability and having a plan B is also required.
Chelsea had no plan B on Tuesday and plan A was having a definite off day.
Inter had done their homework. They knew the questions that Chelsea would pose...and their teacher had all the answers!
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