West Bromwich Albion Away Part II: This Time The Opposition Is Kind Of Good, Yo, is apparently a bad title for SEO purposes, but it's a pretty decent way of describing what happened to Chelsea today. The team was flat at the Hawthorns midweek, and they were also flat against Manchester City, who are markedly better at punishing their guests than the Baggies are. And so we're out of the FA Cup at the third hurdle.
Not that that's necessarily a bad thing -- fixture congestion is already problem enough without having to do battle on three fronts, and by the time we got to the hour mark I was dreading a Chelsea goal and a potential replay more than the prospect of losing outright -- but we're in these tournaments to win them, and the FA Cup has always been an important competition for this club. So yeah, it kind of sucks that City dumped us out this easily.
Losing this match was nowhere near as damaging for the season as a corresponding league defeat might have been, but that's not an excuse for what happened out there. On Wednesday, Chelsea played as though they were barely alive, and rather than opt to go with his depth for a 'lesser' fixture, Jose Mourinho ran out most of his tried and true* starting lineup once again. The result was... well, it was ugly.
*Tired and true?
Alvin Simon Theodore Stevan Jovetic gave City the lead in the 16th minute, taking advantage of a Cesar Azpilicueta positioning error to sneak onto 's pass and guide a shot past Petr Cech and in off the post, and the hosts never looked like giving up their lead. Neither Eden Hazard nor Willian provided enough of a spark to get Chelsea going, and most of the the rest of the players barely showed up. Our most dangerous attacking option might have been Branislav Ivanovic, and although the right back did have two in three going into this game, that's still a rather worrying sign.
We got into the second half without further damage, but bar a fifteen minute spell which saw Mohamed Salah play at no-that's-not-a-false-nine-you-daft-buggers Chelsea did absolutely nothing of interest before Samir Nasri put the game out of reach. The linesman helped -- David Silva was definitely offside just before he passed to Nasri -- but the scoreline was more than deserved, and it was a little bit surprising that we got to full time without conceding again.
In all honesty, a 2-0 loss at the Etihad is a pretty ok way to go out of the FA Cup. We've seen what happens to most teams who go there, and if you'd given me the choice between three points or a quarterfinal berth before these two games, I'd have taken the points every time. But the performance is frustrating. There was no life in the team, and the reason that's so annoying is because it was completely predictable. The players are exhausted.
We have a nice long week off to get back on our feet, but after that the games come thick and fast. We're going to have to learn to play well on short rest soon, or we're in rather a lot of trouble.