As for a Genk recap, friends, I'm not doing it. Jack's not doing. Jamie's not doing it. Your loyal scribes simply refuse to put words on that performance. Dire, would be as far as I'd go in terms of a description. Beyond that, I've got nothing else to say about the match itself. But, I do have some thoughts on what we've witnessed since the QPR debacle that may well shed a light on some of our misfortunes of late. Oh, and I'll probably ramble for a bit about the current state of our Blue union. More, after the jump:
You'd have to be blind if you thought we've actually acquitted ourselves over the last two weeks on the pitch. We've been poor, at best. Many are finding fault with AVB's formations, his use of the high defensive line, his rotation policy, and the like. I call bullshit. It's not the system so much as I believe it's the players who have been failing to perform. If you watch the replay of the Arsenal debacle, you'll note that four of their five goals are a direct result of individuals failing to meet their defensive assignments (Bosingwa leaving Santos, Terry's slip, Cech failing to cover his near post twice). Make what you will of the formation and the system, but the fact remains that the players are still responsible for executing the gameplan. And lets face it, the gameplan ain't changing any time soon. AVB has made it pretty clear to all with a pulse that the current set-up is here to stay for the long term. So, with no immediate plans to jettison the high defensive line and the forward-thinking formation, we're left to ponder just what's really going wrong out there with the players. And let the diatribe begin...
Watch a Madrid match. Watch a Barca match. Watch a City match. Watch a Milan match. Watch a Bayern match. What are you noticing? The crispness of execution in the final third, the finishing prowess, the defensive aggression, the tactical adjustments mid-match, the individual brilliance, the team concept in full flow. All things that I feel we can demonstrate week-in and week-out. But all things that at the moment we're severely lacking in. Some of us want to put it down to confidence. Can't argue with that logic when Nando is sulking one match and thriving the next. Some want to leave it to the rotation policy. Can't argue with that logic when Nelks is floating in and out of consciousness. Some want to leave it to individual selfishness. Can't argue with that logic when you watch any of Flo's performances this season. My point is this- nobody's technically wrong, or right. We all have an opinion on what's breaking down and none can be considered outlandish. There's merit to every criticism, just as there's also reasons to discredit our assumptions.
We're neither right nor wrong- and the frustrating element of this equation is that we don't know what exactly is going on behind the scenes. We're not there to watch the training sessions, we have no idea what AVB is saying to these guys. We can't corroborate any of these bullshit journo concoctions that come pouring out of the press like a faucet. All we have is the performances, week after week, that lend credit to our assumptions. On good days, we believe the tide is turning and all is right in the land of SW6. On bad days, AVB is too naive, our defense is creaky, and our strikers aren't worth starting for Leeds. It's the privilege of being a fan that allows all of us the right to feel in this regard. Yesterday, much like Saturday, was a bad day at the office. Not a horrible one per se, but a bad one to say the least. It was a match that on paper we should have dominated in convincing fashion. But we didn't, and everyone has a reason this afternoon- myself included.
But the only reason that matters, frankly, is the one that invokes a change in the way we're performing. The only rationale that makes sense at this point is whatever words trickle from the fountain of Villas Boas that produces a startling reversal of fortunes for our beloved Chels. We can rotate the hell out of the squad, play with 5 defenders, or four strikers, and it wouldn't make a lick of difference at this stage. No tweaking or tinkering is going to address the fundamental issue that our squad has at the moment- a genuine lack of confidence mixed with an overall failure to establish an identity. Yes, I said it- we are a squad that does not currently know what we want to be. We have the coaching staff that's desirous of being the new Barca/Arsenal hybrid, but the personnel to suggest our 1-0 match-winning days of lore could still exist. Some afternoons, it's effortless and as the song says, Carefree. Others, it's a plodding showcase of just how ineffective we can be.
Identity crisis aside, I feel that the core of the matter lies in the players thinking too much instead of simply 'acting' in the moment. Right now, and anyone who plays the game will tell you, we're eleven players in a slump that are trying to make the 'right pass' instead of the smart one. We're forcing the issue and following the tactical script instead of letting our more creative forces in the squad embrace their abilities. My best mate, who's been around the sport and the club for a long while, was the first to bring this to my attention. Look no further then our Genk performance for an explanation. The problem isn't creating chances, or finishing, or defending poorly. It's that we're not in tune as a side, and not playing as a unit. Instead we have a hodgepodge of guys roaming around trying to do it all by themselves, or forcing passes into channels where they expect players to be, or taking ill-advised shots instead of playing an extra pass to an open man. I'm looking at you Florent. I'm looking right fucking at you.
As frustrating at times as it may be to watch us play, particularly when we hit these stretches in the campaign, it's also time to offer some perspective. We may be nine points adrift in the EPL, and uncertain of our finishing place in the CL group stages. But nothing, I mean NOTHING has been decided yet. The naysayers and doom-and-gloom contingent need to just relax and realize that there's a ton of miles left to go. We've seen in years past how easy it is for everything to change shape- and with the way things are going this year with teams getting slaughtered one week and then firing the bullets the next, who's to say we can't reverse the script? Hell, if Arsenal were able to wether the storm of their dismal start to the season, and are now in fine form, surely we can and will be too.
We absolutely will be. People, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. We neglect to realize that we are, like it or not, in a period of transition. AVB is the first manager since Jose's departure that is doing something drastic in changing the system that we play. Along with that, he's also bringing in a number of fresh faces, and working to phase out some of the old guard. All of this, for it to properly come together, takes time. Patience, is the key. As fans, I know we have a hard time stomaching these performances and sure it boils my blood anytime we fail to win. But we have got to stop being so quick to rush to executioner-style judgements and just let the man have a chance. Certainly, Roman will give AVB the backing he needs to be a success- for more than a number of reasons. Not the least of which revolves around the fact that our beloved owner is in the midst of his own legal wrangling, the last thing he needs after the CPO debacle is another Chelsea-related headline that's going to remind folks about Terry-gate.
AVB deserves a chance. He deserves our support. He deserves an inkling of patience. As for these players? Well, there are a few I could safely say will not be around come summer, and there are some that I'm sure will stick around for reasons I've yet to grasp. But they're also finding their feet, and trying to establish an individual and collective rhythm. We will have days like yesterday, days like Saturday, and days like our first encounter with Genk this season. There will be incredible highs and disparaging lows this year. So it goes when you start a new relationship. The good is great and the bad is awful. But we've done this before. We've been here. We've had the new manager crisis several times over the last decade. Surely, we're better than this?