The start of every Premier League season is a funny time, no one has a clue what is going to happen. Optimism fills the air, new signings fill the squad, who to pick for your fantasy football team fills your mind and losing betting slips fill your rubbish bin. Some things are more certain in the Premier League; regardless of how the season starts, come the end of the season, it will be either Manchester United or Chelsea for the title. But even at this early stage of the season Chelsea (CFC) are being written-off in some quarters and there are early mutterings that this season will be a two-horse race between Manchester United (MUFC) and Manchester City (MCFC).
It has been an interesting start to this season with Manchester rivals City and United coming out of the blocks like champion greyhounds chasing a rabbit, but Chelsea haven’t been too shabby either, well at least on paper. The arguments by those who are writing-off Chelsea this year are basing their views on the fact that Chelsea just lost to United and there first few games. Starting with this weekend’s loss; United had a goal blitz in the first half which pretty much finished the game. Despite this Chelsea didn’t put in a bad performance and if Torres had scored ‘that miss’ things could have been different, after all Chelsea did manage 19 attempts at United’s goal.
The Second point people seem to be making is that Chelsea have had the easier games to start the season with and although they have won these games, the victories have by no means been comprehensive with several tight results against teams they should be beating with perpetual ease.
In contrast you look at some of United’s results; beating Spurs 3-0, beating Arsenal 8-2, beating Bolton 5-0 and now beating Chelsea 3-1, 3 of the top 6 played, 3 relatively easy victories. Manchester City’s highlights have been beating Swansea 4-0, beating Spurs 5-1, and a comfortable win against Wigan 3-0.
For me the results so far are important, but Chelsea have been winning and sit 3rd in the league, 3 points behind MCFC and 5 points behind MUFC, so for people to write them off now is a very bold statement. The league doesn’t lie and it sheds some light on something more alarming, the fact that Manchester United’s goal difference is +17 and Manchester City’s goal difference is +12 but Chelsea’s is only +2, the same as Sunderland, Everton, Aston Villa and Newcastle. This could be one key area where Chelsea are at a major disadvantage this season.
Talk to most Chelsea fans and they will tell you Fernando Torres has probably started the season as one of their best players, but the goals aren’t really there yet. Chelsea’s major issue is that with such a big price-tag Torres really has to play, but they have a problem with their system and personnel in the squad. Manchester United and City have both deployed a balance two-man forward line of late; United’s top two are Rooney and Hernandez and City’s are Dzeko and Aguero. Chelsea don’t play two up tops and this for me is a big problem.
Lukaku, Drogba and Torres are all very similar and really only one of them can play, which is fine because they need a big target man in the middle of their 4-3-3 formation. But we have seen teams pay for not having enough firepower and Spurs were a prime example of this last season. With a new formation that isolated a target man upfront, mainly Peter Crouch, they just didn’t get the goals they needed and relied on goals from Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale to get them through the season. In years gone by at Chelsea, players like Frank Lampard have scored double figures for Chelsea from midfield, along with plenty of goals from the likes of Drogba and Anelka. This season the balance doesn’t seem right at the moment.
For me the Chelsea team seems muddled, Torres, Anelka and Mata as a front three? Or Drogba and Anelka as a tried and tested partnership with Mata supporting them? Can AVB really afford to drop Torres or has his start to the season proven that he needs to be the main man? Torres no doubt is top class, he gets written off because he hasn’t got the goals or he ‘hasn’t been the same since his injury’, but anyone with the record he has does not have much to prove to anyone, but cannot simply play on price-tag or reputation alone.
It is time for Chelsea to find a balance, for me the most successful teams, bar Chelsea, in the Premier League have always won the league playing a 4-4-2. Arsenal moved away from this and have paid the price recently, but AVB is a 4-3-3 man so I cannot see this changing. But how long can Chelsea afford to not play to their optimum potential, there are only so many games you can lose a season and although last season was a freak for the amount of losses the top teams suffered, this season will no doubt be back to normal and if a team loses 3 or 4 games they will be out of the title hunt.
Despite what others think, Chelsea are well and truly in this title race, but I think AVB needs to work out his best 11 and decide whether to stick with the 4-3-3 or make a change in formation to bring more balance to the team. Manchester United won’t lose more than 4 games this season; they only lost 4 games last season, with Chelsea and Manchester City losing 9 each. It won’t be until December when Chelsea face Manchester City and if they lose a couple more before then and lost to MCFC, things could be over early doors. A two-horse race between the two Manchester clubs is not a bad shout, but don’t write the machine that is Chelsea off yet.