Mikel is appalling! Bane's suspended! Eden soiled himself!
Ladies, gentlemen - it was an exhibition. Nothing more, nothing less. While there were some negatives (losing our starting right back at the start of the season for one) and some disappointment, what it all boils down to is the fact that this match, this defeat, means nothing in the grand scheme of the 2012-13 season. No, our confidence will not take a hit because of this 3-2 defeat to Manchester City at Villa Park. No, we haven't suddenly become rubbish because we were somewhat listless with 10 men in a glorified friendly.
Please, friends, attempt to let this concept permeate as we move into examing today's result. Oh, and try to remember, we're the champions of Europe. Yeah, still sounds pretty damn good.
That being said, recapping this loss feels largely like a waste of time. Don't get me wrong, I'm up to the task as there are certainly points worth discussing. I'm simply referring to the way match changed, or ended depending on how you look at it, with the red card issued to Branislav Ivanovic. After 40 or so minutes, the only part we as supporters should have been concerned with - tactics, shape(s) - went out the door.
Was it a deserved sending off? Definitely. Was I still screaming at the television for the lack of a call, perhaps a second yellow card, on Stefan Savic seconds prior for an elbow to the grill of Fernando Torres to really care at the moment? Yes.
Apparently Bane was enraged as well, lunging with his studs up on Aleksandar Kolarov, and promptly reducing Chelsea to 10 men for the remainder. What could he have done to avoid a red? Well, for one, he could've used his head. Simply put, Ivanovic lost the plot for a split-second and it cost him the opening three Premier League fixtures of the season. Looking for something significant to take from this game, that's it. Here's to hoping Michael Emenalo has already flown out to Marseille to wrap up a deal for Apple. Sign the check, Roman.
Up until the point where Bane lashed out, the match was actually pretty entertaining fare. There was a good tempo to the contest, and while I wasn't exactly pleased with the amount of physicality being displayed by both sides, it made for good watching. Sure, there was some awful football on show on occasion (peep our distribution at times during the first half), but that didn't take away from the fun - not exactly something I expected to see prior to kickoff. Interest remained high even after the sending off, though once City levelled the match through Yaya Toure it looked like our defense decided to take the rest of the afternoon off. In all truth, City probably could have had five or six - not that it would've mattered.
It's difficult to criticize player performances in a friendly, but John Terry and David Luiz will need to step it up (and they will). It wasn't exactly Laurel & Hardy - Eden Hazard stole that show with his failed back-heel - but there were some squemish moments from both. John Obi Mikel continues to be one of the most polarizing figures at the club since his arrival, with today's substandard showing bringing out the worst in a handful of commentors in the match reaction thread. Was he off the pace today? Sure. Singling him out, though, is ridiculous. The guy was superlative when reinstated to the first team last season and, for me, has largely been a dependable midfield option since his arrival.
Today, dependable he was not. In fact, the midfield axis of Mikel and Frank Lampard struggled to make even the slightest of imprints. Credit to City who flooded the midfield, and allowed their two front-runners, Kun Aguero and the excellent Carlos Tevez, to swarm our defense whenever in possession. The result from Chelsea was a mish-mash of forced play and rushed decision making. Patience wasn't something we really seemed concerned with, either, with a generous amount of long balls heading toward Torres. Not what I would refer to as an effective strategy. This probably had a lot to do with our inability to transition efficiently from defense to attack, something that will no doubt get better as the players regain fitness and become more comfortable with each other.
Speaking of Torres, how can we not discuss him? You can never not discuss the Nando. I think we all can agree that he had a very solid game. Encouraging. His goal was well-taken (shout outs to Hazard and Ramires for their role in the buildup), doing the un-Torres thing of last season and simply reacting rather than thinking. His movement was also pretty good considering the service. However, what was more impressive, at least for me, was his overall demeanor. He was aggressive in possession, particularly in the second half when he produced a pair of exellent runs with the ball. He occupied defenders. He was persistent. Of course I feel like I say most of this after every above average game Torres has - before he re-enters the mire. It's only one game, a meaningless one at that. We need to see this on a consistent basis.
What else? Hazard showed flashes of excellence and not-so-excellence. City fans booing him for taking more money at Chelsea? Kind of ironic, don't you think? He's going to be a great addition. Mata, he looked a bit labored to me. Still lacking fitness. Ryan Bertrand came on and caught the eye. Sturridge had a good cameo. Overall, the boys added 90 minutes against heavyweight competition to the preseason fitness docket without incurring any real injuries (Sturridge toe aside) - Roberto Di Matteo is well pleased.
That's all I got. I'm sure I missed something relevant, so do feel free to lambaste me in the comments section. What's better? We're less than a week away from real, meaningful competition. Enough of the buildup, let's get down to business.