Chelsea haven't generally looked very good on the pitch of late, but today was very much a game where the Blues looked like the reigning champions of Europe. West Brom did very little to challenge the Blues, and this game could have easily had a very lopsided score.
While 1-0 was probably not indicative of the way the game was played, it's still a result that I'm more than happy to take at this point. Tomorrow's North London derby will be a much more comfortable game to watch now, as there really isn't an outcome that really hurts the Blues. That's for tomorrow though, here are a few thoughts from today's game:
- I was thrilled to see that Benitez used Demba Ba again in a Premier League game, as opposed to choosing the 'in form' Fernando Torres. Regardless of what happens with Mr. Interim, the fact that he of all people has accepted the inevitable should put to rest any thoughts that he's good enough for anything other than a bench role going forward.
- The reaction to Benitez was an awful lot more subdued than I would have expected after his comments this week. I was actually fairly happy with the way the crowd dealt with him, generally making their feelings known with banners and pretending the manager didn't exist beyond that. Chanting "Jose Mourinho" probably didn't sit too well with Benitez though, as the two have had such a wonderful relationship in the past.
- Steve Clarke really did Chelsea a huge favor with his approach, choosing to play the ball slowly out of the back or launching it to Shane Long. That did absolutely nothing to exploit the acres of space that our setup leaves for the pivot to cover, and really allowed the club to be fairly comfortable. Hopefully more clubs approach us that way, as we're clearly not going to adjust our formation if they don't play to our strengths.
- Speaking of tactics, how strange was it to see Rafa Benitez make a sensible adjustment to his approach before the opposition? The attacking band were pressing very heavily in the second half anytime they turned the ball over, something that made loads of sense with the way the Albion side were approaching the game. These types of things will likely lead to better results going forward, and might even quiet the #Rafaout movement a bit.
- A game wouldn't be complete without a like for like substitution when the situation screamed for either a change to add to the attack or a change to close up shop. #Rafalution
- How fun is it going to be to have Oscar wearing Chelsea blue for the next decade or more? Some of the things he manages to do with the ball are just silly, and he's still quite a few years short of reaching his prime. The decision of whom to give Drogba's #11 shirt was a good one.