Another busy day for me, so it's bullet point time. Formation chart after the jump.
- First things first: Chelsea were unlucky not to have won by more goals. I've seen a lot of people around the net worried that the offence is falling off a cliff due to not scoring as frequently as we might have been, but it's really important to remember that the conversion of good chances into goals is probably 50% skill and 50% luck. Chelsea generated eight or nine good chances against Fulham and only one went it - that's the luck of the draw, and you have to go back to the Manchester City match to find a game where a goal didn't ever look likely. The attack is probably fine.
Michael Essien. Despite scoring, the midfielder wasn't anywhere close to his Chelsea best. he was, however, much better than Ramires, who was the right-sided central midfielder during the loss to Liverpool. Essien's tackling, passing, and running were all a significant improvement on Ramires's play in the first 45 against Liverpool, which meant that an easy path to drive through the midfield had been closed off. John Obi Mikel was also much improved compared to his game on Sunday
Yuri Zhirkov. On Sunday it was very clear that Zhirkov's tendency to drift left creates large gaps in the midfield, and Ramires was unable to cover for him. On Wednesday, this didn't happen, as Zhirkov stayed much more central and put in a strong defensive effort, making four tackles in the middle of the pitch and recording five interceptions, clogging up the space which Steven Gerrard had used to terrorise Chelsea at Anfield.
Fulham. This might seem obvious, but Dickson Etuhu is not Steven Gerrard and Moussa Dembele is not Fernando Torres. Chelsea's central players comfortably held off Fulham's midfield, who were very cautious about pushing forward thanks to a healthy fear of the Chelsea counterattack. This left Dembele isolated against the centrebacks and Mikel, and even when he received and kept the ball there was nothing he could do about it.
Figure 2: Mark Schwarzer vs. Petr Cech, passing. Courtesy Guardian Chalkboards.