Three points, four goals, a red card, and a couple yellows to boot. All in a Saturday. More, after the jump:
"But I just scored! C'mon son..."
Apologies for the tardiness of this post. Your loyal CO scribes have been busy attending to any number of personal matters this weekend. But, we did watch, and yes, we have opinions on everything that transpired. Certainly, plenty to share on the Fernando conundrum. Perhaps a few sentences about this supposed Lampard crisis? I might get to that. But lets skip the mess and go straight to the action for now. Chelsea fielded a strong XI, with Ash, Bosingwer, Bane, JT, Mikel, Meireles, Ramires, Nando, Mata, and Nelks chosen to do battle against a Swansea side out to scrape a point.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the early AVB regime is the guessing-game we as fans play as we hope to find out what the lineup will be each week. You can be certain that he went to great pains to pick out his formation, bench, starters, and substitutions. Coming off the grueling Fulham fixture in midweek, a number of players were dropped to the bench for rest. One of whom, Frank Lampard, looked neither pleased nor placated to find a seat next to the boss. More on that later.
Chelsea kicked off proceedings in fairly convincing fashion, with both clubs moving the ball forward into the attack. Swansea appeared a touch sharper from the onset, but that soon settled, and it was who Chelsea showed verve going forward, with Ramires, Anelka, and Fernando Torres all drifting into dangerous areas without a goal to show. In the 15th minute, Raul Meireles (who has ostensibly replaced Frankie Lamps in the midfield for the moment) blasted a volley high and wide, and many began to anticipate this to be another low-scoring affair for the boys in Blue.
But, fortune favors the bold, and Chelsea were rewarded after 29 minutes, when our Spanish Contingent (SC for short) linked up to great effect. Juan Mata, who is rapidly becoming the most influential player on the pitch for the club, drifted inside from the left, and found himself in possession just a few yards outside the box. Naturally, he lofted a peach of a pass through the box, which was chested down by Fernando, who turned and slotted the shot neatly into the bottom left corner. Off went the Shed, and down came the roof. It may not have been as much of an uproar as when he scored against West Ham last season, but it was his first in front of the Shed, his second in as many games, and his third match in a row where he looked the business. So yeah, hate it or love it, Nando looked to be well on his way to having another stellar afternoon.
Seven minutes later, Chelsea doubled the score with a beautiful string of passes commencing with Nando finding Ash, who laid the ball off to Ramires who, to the collective shock of the entire Bridge, opted to shoot instead of leave a pass for an open Anelka to tap home. As we all held our breath (considering the sitters he missed in mid-week), the ball slid neatly under Michel Vorm's legs and nestled into the net for a quick-fire double. 2-0 up and that was all we needed to know we were on our way to having a fantastic afternoon. Or so it seemed, until Nando went crazy.
Essentially, feeling amped up and hungry for more, Nando went studs-up into a two-footed slide against Mark Gower. Immediately, everyone knew it was going to be bad. And sure enough, it resulted in a straight red, which nobody could argue with at the time. Replays suggest Gower might have made a meal of it, but regardless, it had to be a red in my eyes. It was reckless, dangerous, and down-right foolish. With Nando out of the frame, AVB had to reshuffle the deck for the second time in a week, having to utilize 10 men against a Swansea side that came out hungry in the second half.
Whatever Brendan Rodgers said at halftime, it worked. Swansea immediately began the second 45 with more pace, and persistence. Scott Sinclar, he of previous Chelsea youth system lore, began to torch the woeful Bosingwa. Which, by the way, brings me to another key point. As well as Bosingwa has played for us this season, his crossing remains, and I'm being generous here, woeful at best. Two shanks in ten minutes of play in the first half? Unacceptable. Somebody needs to teach these men how to cross from the flanks. Just sayin'...
Ashley Williams should have pulled one back for Swansea on 55 minutes, but Ramires deftly cleared off the line after a sustained spell of pressure from the Swans. On the counter, Nelks did what only Nelks can do. Stop stop, run run, slow, fast, slow, run, fast, stop, slow. You know, one of his trademark runs that seems to duck, dive, and weave across the pitch at varying speeds. Except this one was unique in that he seemed to be taking on the entire Swansea defense in the process. And let me just say, it was remarkable - particularly the end product. After lulling the defense to sleep by slowing to a standstill some 30 yards out, he unleashed a ferocious shot from distance that rattled the crossbar and woke everyone in SW6 from their afternoon naps. Yeah, shit was unreal.
For as much as the Swans attempted to emphasize getting forward and putting pressure, Chelsea never seemed troubled. England's Brave and Bane cleaned up with aplomb, and Ash was back to his imperious best on the left after getting scorched by Nani last week. In the 77th minute, Chelsea added a third after Ramires collected a Bosingwa cross (I KNOW, SHOCKING) and neatly touched it away before slotting it home. Now, the Swans did pull one back mind you. Of course, this goal came off a set piece, which we've been terrible at defending now for four years. So AVB, if you're listening, please get some drills in before Valencia find a way to exploit this in midweek. Either Cech has to be more vocal, or the backline has to be more potent. Either way, a solution is necessary- sharpish.
The fourth goal? Well, it came from the returning Didier Drogba. What a legend. I won't say more than that.
Called into action a handful of times, but was out of place on the goal. Needs to improve in the set pieces area. 6
Managed to improve after what was a very shaky start- found Ramires for the third, and improved his defending on Sinclair in the second half. 6
Brilliant in the air as always. 6.5
If this is the season that the 'Old Guard' fall out of favor at Chelsea then so be it. But there's no way in hell John Terry is fading into obscurity. Not if he continues to put in shifts like this. A force in the air, in the tackle, and everywhere in between. 7.5
Back to his marauding best. 7.5
John Obi Mikel
Tenacious in the tackle, smart in possession, did a great job controlling tempo. Needs to pass forward more than sideways, but still was excellent throughout. 7
A couple of nice touches, but had a hard time picking out a good pass. What I've enjoyed from him thus far is his timing- how he anticipates his runs from the midfield. His passing is better than this afternoon suggests. Preferred to Lamps. 6
My pick for MOTM. Absolutely brilliant. Tireless runner, dogged defender, and true goal poacher. He's rapidly becoming an outstanding box-to-box midfielder. Cheers, Carlo, for scooping him up for us. 8
Another game, another impact performance. As said above, currently the most important player on the pitch. Subbed with time to spare to keep his legs fresh for what will be an emotional match on Wednesday against his old mates. 7
Getting on about his business, adding a different dimension on the flank than Danny. Will be disappointed not to have scored but can take solace in playing an excellent team game throughout. 7
The goal? It was well taken. The Red Card? It was pointless. Total mixed bag from Nando. Sad to lose him for a month but I'd expect him to play on Wednesday in Valencia. 6
Came in to spell Mata in the second half. Almost scored with a thunderbolt shot. Did his part quietly. 6
Hardly got enough time to show us anything. Preferred over Lamps again. Hmm... 6
He's back. Thank the heavens above. A goal-scoring return to boot. It's great timing that he returns as we lose Nando do idiocy for four weeks. Will expect him to find some minutes in midweek play. 6.5