As Graham's seemingly far too pissed to write a report for our match (read: lolfest) against Brighton, I thought I'd try and express a few of my thoughts about today's game myself. Can't be too difficult, can it?
- The team is still in preseason mode, and understandably so. Torres was handed his first start today after the Euros, and several other players played their first 90 minutes of the season. Additionally, Hazard seemed a bit tired today. Fitness levels are still growing, and the team is obviously not in optimum shape yet. This probably explains most of our sloppy play today.
- The match was also Di Matteo's one last chance to try and implement a few more tactics for the upcoming season, and so, the team started with a 4-3-3, with Hazard and Ramires flanking Torres on either side, while Meireles, Essien and Lampard made up the midfield. Clearly though, most of the team seems to be unfamiliar with this formation, with Hazard especially drifting inside far too often.
- Also, Ramires doesn't seem to be too comfortable occupying a place so high up the pitch. While this is probably due to preseason, I personally feel Ramires would be much better used if deployed deeper, so that Ivanovic can launch him on one of his lung-bursting runs through the wing. As he isn't a traditional right attacking winger, his crossing lacks polish. He isn't the greatest finisher either.
- Meireles is shoite. Enough said.
- All right, I guess I'll expand on that. Meireles is a player who completely befuddles me. I've never seen him as a player who has any one exceptional skill, but rather one who presses his opponents and harasses them. But today, there was none of that. All I saw was a player who was easily dispossessed, broke most of our possession play by launching meaningless long balls forward, or just lazily jogged around the pitch. He lacks vision, commitment, and perhaps even, skill. Oh, and he assisted a Brighton goal too.
- Lampard is still capable of starting a decent amount of games for us. A lot of people on the preseason match threads are of the impression that Lampard no longer has the game-changing ability we're so accustomed to seeing from him over the last 11 years. I think that's a bit hasty. While not excellent (no-one was), Lampard combined well with the likes of Hazard and Torres today, and even got on the scoresheet, by finishing an excellent ball from Ramires. He could have gotten another one too, had he not scuffed a pass by Torres a few yards from goal. His set-piece taking has deteriorated though, and if I were RDM, I'd slowly start to phase him out from that duty.
- Our central defense was far too shaky today, something which is surprising, and a touch alarming, seeing as that we're almost certainly going into the season with JT, Luiz and Cahill. The back four left far too many gaps today for the Brighton front line to exploit, and Vicente wasted no time in harassing our defenders and scoring. I'd probably attribute this to rustiness, and the fact that Turnbull came on for Cech a few minutes into half-time.
- Our midfield needs at least one upgrade. The quartet of Mikel, Meireles, Essien and Lampard just didn't cut it today. Brighton pressed us excellently today when we had the ball and our midfield succumbed to that pressure far too easily, far too often. As Graham commented in the gamethread, we were dispossessed even in our own half. And to think, by a fairly middling Championship side. Our build-up play progresses at a snail's pace and there's barely anyone with vision in midfield. To even come close to attempting the football Roman so craves, we clearly we need Oscar to come in and give us a helping hand. Maybe Emenalo could even persuade Sahin to come and join the party. Meireles and Essien, and maybe Mikel seem to be nothing more than squad players.
- Even in those rare occasions where we manage to break forward, we still seem to lack that killer instinct to home in on goal. This is where we could have used Marin's pace, who picked up a small knock in training. Hopefully, a band of Mata, Hazard and Marin/Ramires would provide us with more instinctive passing.
- Torres is still Torres, though it's probably because of preseason rustiness. He did have a few nice touches today, and I still think, with all the attacking talent we've stockpiled (and yet to use), he has a 20-goal season in him. The Kraken did come on Torres around the 75th minute, and he didn't leave a particularly noticeable impression, though I did feel he did have a chance from a corner he could have taken more advantage of. The boy needs to go on loan.
Well, that's all I can say about today's match. I suppose I could probably say more, but it's 1 in the morning where I'm on holiday right now, and I'm a touch woozy.