To say that the blue seas haven’t been rough is probably downplaying the crisis that has gone on at Chelsea this season. However, in an attempt to steady the ship, the Blues faced an Aston Villa team and got a desperately needed victory after returning from the international break. It was a result that will give the lads some confidence as they head into a midweek clash against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League. However, it’s also a result or, rather, the performance they should forget as soon as possible. Jose Mourinho described the 3–0 defeat to Manchester City as “fake” but the description seems a lot more fitting in this scenario.
For anyone who took the time to take in the fixture, words like ‘exciting’ or ‘action-packed’ probably won’t come to mind. Given the pressure on both teams, you could deduce that they were more wary of not losing than winning. Chelsea, unsurprisingly these days, looked the nervier of the two at home and this manifested itself in midfield where Chelsea’s stamp of authority was simply not there. Chelsea’s inability to buy a clean sheet in recent times likely sparked this as Mourinho’s revitalized emphasis on a tight defense and keeping Aston Villa at bay overpowered any attempt at controlling the game. Notwithstanding, Aston Villa had their chances in the first half and those are chances that you can see being punished by higher quality opposition. Chelsea did well to curb their threat in the second half.
It’s not surprising that going back to basics didn’t do much for Chelsea in attack. Although, to be fair, Chelsea hasn’t been very commanding in that regard for the better part of 2015. It was a game characterised by mistakes from Aston Villa from which Chelsea profited. Their first goal came after Willian pounced on a sloppy exchange with Villa keeper Brad Guzan and Joleon Lescott to square for Diego Costa’s tap-in. Some good fortune followed with a huge deflection on Costa’s second half strike which led to an Alan Hutton own goal. That aside, throughout the entire match, Chelsea only managed to create five other chances in the game according to Squawka. That, against a poor Aston Villa team, does speak for itself. Chelsea have struggled to break down teams although we have heard more about their defensive problems this season. While the form of some of the creative players such as Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard has dipped, opposing teams have figured out Chelsea, stayed compact and targetted the creative outlets. It is important for Mourinho not get carried away solely with ensuring the bus is well parked to stem the tide and start winning games. Their cohesion going forward remains an important issue to be addressed or else a slew of draws might just be on the horizon, instead. At this stage, Chelsea’s margin for error can’t accommodate that if they have any plans of making it into the top four.
Before anyone looks to fume and point out that if Chelsea lost to Villa they wouldn’t be deemed weak, let’s be clear; Chelsea needed three points more than anything else regardless of what transpired on the day. That, however, doesn’t change that those three points were virtually gift-wrapped by Villa. Chelsea head into a Champions League round with Porto and Dynamo currently topping their group with four points while Chelsea are on three. With Porto facing Maccabi Tel Aviv at home and a Porto victory expected there, Chelsea can’t afford to be playing with fire. The weekend’s victory provides a small tonic but it would be criminal if it lulled the Chelsea players into any false sense of security.
The result is a smokescreen to a performance that needs to improve…dramatically…if they intend to secure three more points away against a much stronger Kiev team on Tuesday evening.