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A fine assessment of Chelsea’s performance
Before the game began, was having a bit of banter with some friends and was ridiculed for saying “look, this Barcelona does not scare me and if personnel and tactics are right, we can comfortably beat them at least at home”. Of course, the said friends mocked me totally because you know (a) they are Pool fans and (b) according to them, only Pool, City and Barcelona play football.
Cutting to the chase, I want to divide my entire mail into three main categories
(a) Conte’s tactics: In my opinion, Antonio Conte’s best is when he is an underdog and has a team with not many super stars but characters who will “work” for 90 odd minutes. Italy had no rights to score a goal, let alone two keeping a clean sheet in the Euros. Chelsea had no business winning the title last season given City and United’s relatively better squads. Yet, when his team is not the favorite, Conte brings the best. It was no surprise we comfortably handled Barcelona last night with no fuss.
My worry was the midfield of Kante and Fabregas, but boy both of them played a 10/10. In particular, Kante w/o the ball ensured none of Messi/Barca midfield could play any penetrative passes to space in the middle, always shunting them to the sides and Fabregas ensured he did the defensive duty to his best capacity yet ensure some great passes up front. The front three of Pedro, Hazard and Willian were fantastic. I could understand Hazard below par because he did not play at his best position, but he sacrificed a lot. Says a lot about him.
(b) Willian: That brings me to Willian, a player to whom I say a heartfelt apology. Sorry, Willian for never trusting you and criticizing you a lot. That was his best performance in a Chelsea shirt. Antonio Conte has managed which no Chelsea coach has ever done – get Willian’s best in a football match. Close control, dribbling, change of speed, a goal and two hits on the bar. It is an understatement to say he was the best player on the pitch last night. If he can do that 4/5 games, I will never have the scars of KDB again. My only wish was we still had Diego. We would’ve put more misery to that Barcelona defense.
(c) The back line: This was Andreas Christensen’s worst Chelsea game even ignoring his mistake. Yet this is far better than the best game of some of our other defenders (Cahill gets a mention here). He is young, he will learn with this game and his mentality will improve, so I’m cool with it. On the other hand, this was Marcos Alonso’s best game in a Chelsea shirt. That was a world class full/wing back performance from Alonso. He was defensively well positioned, intercepted well, tackled brilliantly and occasionally was the center forward.
What a performance that was. Incidentally put anyone other than Cahill next to him and his output and productivity multiplies. I personally do not hate Cahill but I always feel putting him in a starting XI reduces the effectiveness of many others, mostly Alonso. With a pacier Rudiger who despite positional culpability has good passing range changes Alonso’s entire game. It was so visible last night. Azpilicueta did nothing wrong (maybe could’ve stood than tackle for the goal?), Moses irritated me time to time but improved with each minute.
My only gripe is that we should’ve won that game 3-0 without letting Barcelona hit a shot on target. We were that good. A team like Liverpool or Man City would’ve comfortably put 4 past this Barcelona (of course conceding anywhere between 1-4 in the process, 4 if Pool)). I say this again, we may yet lose at the Camp Nou, but this Barcelona does not scare me and must not scare any other English team for that matter.
Oh and it was nice to see Messi open his account against us finally. FWIW, a great player like him cannot have a record like that though it is my team!
Aravind, Chelsea Fan
Chelsea deserve a little more credit
Matt Stead observations are excellent and while it was indeed a wasted opportunity he is not giving enough credit to Chelsea for the wonderful performance. I think Chelsea played an perfect game and Barca were riding their luck at times. Any other day it would have been a hattrick for Willian.
Chelsea were excellent in counterattack as well as breaking up play. Conte’s Game plan was to ambush Barca and that’s exactly what we did.
Conte’s team selection was on point and front three was better choice than the front two. The balance to the side between attack and defense was restored and this should be the preferred formation in the league too.
I do anticipate that the visit to Nou Camp will be very tough esp with the away goal. But we have reason to be optimistic after excellent performances against Atletico and now against Barca.
Finally, In Conte we have an excellent coach with wonderful ideas and great footballing mind ala Pep. While one coach got his top picks Conte has had to manage with signing leftovers. And that is the true reason for the gap at top of the table. I can only wonder how much better we would have been if club had backed Conte on players.
…Willian – you beauty.
Such a satisfying performance which went so close to being perfect. Christensen needs to forget that mistake and fast. He is just 21 and I hope he is not crucified in the media.
I always believed that it is better to play the away game in the 2nd leg-contrary to the popular belief- , especially against teams like Barca, in the sense that you don’t have for fear the dreaded away goals anymore and the game can be played without much fear in a most effective and attack minded manner.
Chelsea can really score one or two goals in Camp Nou as I did not see a great deal of the supposedly new found defensive tightness from Barca today. Chelsea had more shots despite having around 24 percent possession throughout.
Still got it
A risky and unadvisable pass by Christiansen yes, but when he hits it a 33 year old Iniesta is fourth favourite to get that ball behind Azpilicueta, Fabregas and Moses, but still gets there first and creates a goal.
Still a sharper football mind than most clearly.
We always get a few of these
Well I’ll start with i’m not a fan of either team (utd im afraid so perhaps my opinion is invalid) but we’re 70 mins through so far and by god I hate Barcelona so much. Honestly I’ve never liked or admired them, I find their play boring, their histrionics infuriating and their assistance from refs year on year disgusting.
I so hope Chelsea win this tie but if they don’t I’ll even cheer on Liverpool if that’s who gets to the final!
…Bloody hell Barca are dull to watch. Boring teams into submission. We get it, you can pass sideways, now do something interesting…anything…please.
Pretty confident Chelsea will get the job done over there, if they can stay awake.
No excuses for English clubs in Europe now
There is nothing to fear looking at that Barcelona team – plenty of talent but a lack of penetration. Juventus look old and I’m never convinced by flaky PSG. Real and Ronaldo have pulled it out of the bag so often but they still look disjointed and on the wane.
Bayern could be the biggest threat but I would be amazed if an English club does not conquer Europe now. No excuses.
Best ever Champions League season?
After seeing Barcelona rack up frankly ludicrous possession stats at the home of the English champions I started thinking of the last time there wasn’t really one or two dominant super clubs in Europe, and it got me thinking of 03/04. And i humbly put this question to the mailbox; was this the greatest champions league campaign?
It had everything; comedy eliminations (Newcastle in the qualifying rounds, Real dumped out by their own striker on loan), ludicrous comebacks (the Deportivo/Milan tie), iconic moments (Mourinho’s touchline jig) and an unexpected winner. It was also the last time we saw a whole host of fresh faces in the latter stages.
Aside from “the season my team won it” can anyone think of any better?
Kevin (Hoping for anything but a Real/Barca win this year, variety is the spice of life), Thailand
And a worst Champions League-winning XI
While I’m not going to go to the effort of ranking the worst 10 players to win the Champions League as per yesterday’s suggestion, here’s a go at a worst XI (based on being in the squad for the final). English weighted, I’m sure there’s some bad players on the bench for some of our European friends, but if this lot can win the Champions League then so can I…
GK: Ross Turnbull
RB: Jose Bosingwa
LB: Djimi Traore
CB: David May
CB: Roque Junior
RM: Antonio Nunez
LM: Ibrahim Afellay
CM: Jonathan Greening
CM: Igor Biscan
CF: Marcelo Zalayeta
CF: Peter Van Vossen (who, to be fair, was GREAT on CM 95/96)
Mike Coxon, Burgess Hill
Kicking, passing, shooting
Glenn Hoddle initially described Willian’s shot for his goal as a ‘pass’ into the net. When he saw the replay showing there was considerable power generated by Willian he revised this to a ‘firm pass’. Which got me thinking…
I’ve used the term ‘pass’ to describe shots before, it’s a commonly used and accepted word for a gentle shot usually with the side of the foot. However, there are only 4 types of kick in football; shot, pass, control, and clearance. Yet we have an endless and diverse vocabulary to describe the variations of these. Control is about maintaining possession so its usually expressed as touches or dribbles. Clearances are hoofed, punted, or blasted. Passes can be through, crossfield, reverse, short, long, quick, weighted. Shots are driven, curled, tapped, lobbed and overhead. There are many, many more.
With this abundance of language it seems lazy and (for reasons that are unclear to me) wrong to describe a shot as a pass. You’d wouldn’t use shot when talking about a pass unless there is some confusion as to the players intention. Also, it’s fundamentally inaccurate, a pass is an attempt to get the ball to another player. If a shot reaches another player rather than the goal then something’s gone very wrong. Surely there must be a better word we can use when discussing this type of shot. I can’t for the life of me think of one but I’m open to suggestions.