Alright. This match report is going to be short, because basically nothing happened. Wigan Athletic spent the first half with eleven men stuck like sardines into their half of the pitch, and Chelsea couldn't break them down. There was a penalty appeal when the ball struck Branislav Ivanovic's left arm that sparked all manner of really stupid debate, and then it was halftime. The first half was what I imagine death feels like.
There was an obvious substitution to be made after that, and that was the introduction of Salomon Kalou. Calls for Fernando Torres was coming in left and right, which made absolutely no sense considering the strengths and weaknesses of the two strikers, regardless of form. Fortunately, Andre Villas-Boas took the sensible route and introduced the forward better suited to weaving through tight defences, deploying Kalou on the left and switching to a 4-2-3-1.
That move paid pretty quick dividends, with Daniel Sturridge expertly controlling a long pass from Ashley Cole and then ripping a right-footed shot past Ali Al-Habsi and into the back of the net. At that point, rather than pouring on the pressure as Wigan tried for the equaliser, Chelsea attempted to shut up shop. It was a questionable move, but I think it's pretty clear to everyone that the home side only had a prayer if the Blues started making defensive mistakes.
Unfortunately for us, they did. Branislav Ivanovic managed to injure Petr Cech with a complete mess of a backpass that Wigan ought to have scored from, and then a rattled Cech contrived to drop a weak shot straight onto the boot of Jordi Gomez, who accepted the invitation by lashing home the equaliser from close range. There wasn't much time to do anything about it, and the match ended 1-1.
There were some odd decisions made by Villas-Boas today. I'm going to go to bullet points on this one.
- The lineup caused us real problems. If Wigan were going to play in what ended up being a 5-5-0, Didier Drogba is clearly the correct choice at centre forward, because there'd be no space for Fernando Torres to operate in. With Roberto Martinez going for that shape, starting Drogba was a good call. However, using Oriol Romeu while expecting Wigan to drop back into a shell is completely pointless - it robbed Chelsea of some impetus in attack and then made it impossible to solidify the defence adequately later.
- Romelu Lukaku should probably have been in the squad if Villas-Boas was anticipating a very deep Wigan team. No other Chelsea striker can do the same sort of job as Drogba, and the bench was set up so that if our #11 had a bad game (he did!) we had no ready made replacement for him.
- Once Wigan went down, they pushed forward out of necessity, and Chelsea were unable to counterattack effectively. This probably has to do with incredibly poor distribution from the midfield - Raul Meireles and Frank Lampard were appalling - and one could easily argue that more positive substitutions from the manager would have paid dividends. However, Villas-Boas' decision was largely justified by the fact that Wigan's only real chances came on astonishing screwups from certain players.
- During the opening stages of the first half, Danny Sturridge was running riot down the right wing. After one great run, Andre Villas-Boas called him over and then both Sturridge and a disappointing Juan Mata sat much deeper. I have no idea what's going on there, but I think a reasonable person could be cranky at Villas-Boas for that move.
And now some more general thoughts:
- We managed to avoid suspensions for Tottenham. That's a good thing. In fact, if I recall correctly, we managed to avoid any yellow cards at all. Weird.
- We really missed Ramires, but that's not an excuse for the players to basically do nothing all match. I thought that that was a terrible performance which Andre Villas-Boas nearly salvaged, and that's on the players.
- Why Ivanovic gets away with his mistakes and David Luiz doesn't is beyond me.
- Football is not about getting Fernando Torres playing time. Jesus.
- At the end of the day we got seven points after matches against Newcastle United, Manchester City and Wigan. Are we really going to be super-sulky about this?