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Carlo Ancelotti Explains Chelsea FC Lineup Decisions Against Blackburn

Michael Essien was selected to nullify Blackburn's physical threat, and he did just that in Chelsea's 2-0 home victory on Saturday.
Michael Essien was selected to nullify Blackburn's physical threat, and he did just that in Chelsea's 2-0 home victory on Saturday.

Despite hints that Carlo Ancelotti would go with the likes of Josh McEachran and Daniel Sturridge over superstars Michael Essien and Didier Drogba in a bid to overturn his side's stumbling recent form, the Chelsea FC team that ran out onto Stamford Bridge's turf to square off against Blackburn Rovers featured exactly one player under the age of 25, and including an £18M signing in Ramires is hardly a youth movement. Ultimately the lineup paid off for the Blues - although they didn't exactly look awe-inspiring doing it, and it was the two youngest starters who shone brightest in Branislav Ivanovic and the aforementioned Ramires.

So why, after all the noise about giving McEachran and company a chance, did Ancelotti go with his typical lineup? Was it simnply a matter of giving lip service to the kids and trying to light a fire under his veteran players, or was it something else? In the match preview against Blackburn I mentioned that I would try to avoid starting Josh McEachran thanks to the physical presence of the Blackburn midfield, reasoning that Essien and Ramires were both far more suited to being bullied around than the paperweight 17 year-old. Apparently, Carlo agreed, at least in general.

We needed to have more size. I knew Blackburn would use the long ball and set pieces and I wanted to have power in the box so Essien and Drogba started the game... they don't have to play every game... It is important for us McEachran is able to play, ready to play from the beginning and puts more competition in the squad.

-Carlo Ancelotti. Source: Chelsea FC Official Site.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement of the young midfielder, but at least it's a very reasonable explanation of why he wasn't played from the beginning. Chelsea relied on their aerial threat to win the game, and although this ended up coming through the centre back pairing it's undeniable that Drogba and Essien are more competent in the air than McEachran or Daniel Sturridge. It appears that at least part of Chelsea's plan was to beat Blackburn at their own game, and well, it worked.

The rest of the quote is also pretty reasonable - Carlo says it's good to have competition and Drogba and Essien don't have to play all the time. I totally agree with that sentiment, but it's not exactly ringing endorsement of the youngsters. While I get the rationale behind the decision this time, I'd like to see a little more rotation in the squad, and I really don't see a reason the senior players can't be rested more often. Having one young player in the side isn't going to kill the team and we can ensure that the senior guys are fitter throughout the season by simply giving them as many days off as we can.

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