365 days ago today Chelsea FC opened the historic, double winning, yet disappointing in the Barclay's Premier League, 2011-2012 season with a league fixture against Stoke City. Fox Soccer Plus is currently showing a replay of the game and I find it fascinating because the way we were lined up is somewhat hilarious in retrospect, it reminded me of a couple things that we may have forgot, and it put our current roster in context. Also the officiating of this game made yesterday seem as not that bad. Ref failed to call four clear fouls, two in the penalty box, in a five minute span, then almost allowed a goal by not calling a foul on stoke when two players crashed into Cech and let the ball bounce around in the box. Anyway back to why you are reading. Let me start with the lineup. It was the first league game with AVB's skinny tie and 4-3-3.
Subs: Malouda off Anelka On 70'
Kalou off Drogba On 76'
Torres off Benayoun On 89'
Unused subs: Ivanovic, Hilario, Josh M., Paulo F
Unavailable: Sturridge (3 match ban), Essien and David Luiz (injury)
I put Mikel and Lampard in question marks because they were constantly overlapping. I'm sure I have it correct but lampard would come forward and sit in the middle area. On defense Mikel would go towards the left let lampard track back through the center and then wait and switch once the defense settled in or someone made a lateral run.
---------------------Somethings we have forgotten since this game*------------------
Our defense was pretty damn good offensively: Cole is still a threat but during this match he was just the third best attacking option in this game. Bosingwa was amazing making runs and had a couple of well hit shots. Alex was pretty much the same but less often and more impressive. Also he was another player the goalie had to keep an eye on during free kicks
Anelka was important: Wow I forgot how this man added a bit of cheek and was a fantastic pairing with drogba. He was no longer the Anelka who was such a great player during his earlier years but still showed some nice play that day.
Ramieres is very threatening when playing deep: Before you bite my head off I'm not saying that he isn't good as a winger. All I'm saying is that Rami is fantastic when he has the ball deep and is able to run. Not just on counters but even with nine defenders in front of the ball, he's better with room to run.
Torres is just flat out dangerous in the final third: Seriously his movements, passing, speed, height (meh), skill and vision are all top class so even when his striking is lacking he can still be a major asset to the club.
Di Mateo was better at handling Torres and AVB never cared to manage players: Torres came off and AVB just glared at him. I guess he was upset that Torres didn't use more strength when he was fouled with the ball six yards in front of goal. Robbie came out and actually talked to Torres and it looked like he said the word cross so he may have congratulated Torres on a beautiful cross to put Malouda in with an open header that went high.
-----------------------So what can we learn about next week from this game?-------------------------
The squad will change before the window closes: After this game we had Yossi go out on loan (along with others) and brought in two first team players Juan Mata and Raul Mierelsh as well as Lukaku who was a big money signature.
Chelsea will not make any snap decisions when it comes to sales: Alex was on his way out seeing we spent a considerable a,punt of money on David Luiz and there were offers for him. Management was willing to wait which was the right decision. The wrong decision was allowing AVB to treat him and Anelka the way he did because it just wasn't right for someone who has been a part of so much of our history.
We need to be patient because we are in more of a state of rebuilding this year than last year: I went back and looked at the 2010 lineup to see if there was more of a difference between the 2010 and 2011 openers or a difference in the 2011 and 2012. In essence squad changes in a year.
2010 Opener vs West Brom (managed by now Chelsea manager Roberto Di Mateo)
4-3-2-1 So 4-3-3 with more centrally located wingers
Subs: Ivanovic On Paulo off 60'
Benayoun On Lampard off 65'
Kalou On Drogba off 70'
Unused subs: Hilario, V Aanholt, Sturridge, Zhirkov
Unavailable: Bosingwa (injury)
Theres not that much of a difference in squad selection, team shape or style of play. If it wasn't for a Bosingwa injury I feel the only differences would have been Ramieres instead of Essien and Torres (who wasn't on the squad in 2010) and Kalou starting over Drogba and Anelka who eventually came on. Meanwhile of the 14 players who played in last years opener, five are no longer with us and two (Malouda and Benayoun) seem to be on their way out. I almost forgot that Malouda was still a Chelsea player and it took me longer than I'd like to admit to realize that.
We know there will be a new formation, but I also expect a minimum of 4 new names to the starting lineup, and possibly a fifth if Terry's ban is announced soon. On the bench we will see changes in names to Marin, Piazon, possibly MRLSH and Cahill if they don't get a starting spot (not saying they will but they might), possibly Hutch. I don't expect a transfer to be completed and squad integration to happen in six days so I've left off possibilities of Moses and Azpilicueta although they would further highlight our state of transition.
I feel as though I want to say that a draw wouldn't be the end of the world, because frankly it won't. No team has lost a championship after just the first game in any non-NCAA Football season. That being said I think this game is very important. You always want 3 points against lesser teams (Man U last year, other than 2 losses to City, dropping points against teams outside top absolutely killed them late in the year). Also we are currently on a four game losing streak. We aren't going to argue that those three games weren't important. I agree with that, but one win in seven games could effect a team's pshyqe, which (just ask Torres) is not a good thing. It would feel good for the guys to get three points and somewhat validate the 'we could've won if we tried' sentiment that kept level headed people well level headed.
All in all we have 38 league games ahead of us and more chances to win trophies in other competitions. I think on paper, as all stands Chelsea will be a part of a three team chase for third and fourth. I feel Arsenal are a bit more likely to secure third as they've reinforced some problem areas, still have RVP (but thats up to change) and have less competition to stretch their stamina across. Also Tottenham still have Modric, until that changes it'll be tight between us and them. We still have additions looming and those two seem to have impending losses. Chelsea have 5 the way I see it: Backup RB, CM reinforcement, RW (backup or starter), someone who can play CF, and, much like Man City, we need to sell deadweight (Torres does not qualify yet)
*By saying we have forgotten them I don't mean people don't remember. I meant it as we haven't talked about it much either because tactically we haven't, can't or won't utilize or worry about any of these anymore.