Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat at Upton Park was their 7th game without a win in the Premier League. The Blues are still in third, but their recent form has been worrying to say the least. Amazingly, Chelsea still look good to finish in the top four, but they definitely need to improve or could risk falling further out of contention. But what does Rafa need to do to turn things around?
Torres has one goal in his last eleven games, a terrible record for a striker at any level. Rafa Benitez was brought to Chelsea with the remit of improving their form but also to bring the best out of Torres. With such a poor goal scoring record Benitez could master his own down fall by aligning himself with such a chronically out of sorts striker. Whilst he got an assist against West Ham, he was widely redundant in the game, with his touch often poor. After Chelsea went to 1-1 he had the perfect chance to give his side the lead, but hit tamely at the keeper, when either side of the keeper would have put Chelsea back ahead.
Torres is not going to come back, Benitez needs to accept that, as does Abramovich. The options for replacements are limited, but Benitez must act. Sturridge has had injury issues, but if fit should be selected against Sunderland this weekend. Alternatively, a floundering Hazard, could work well as a ‘false 9′ as he looked OK here against Juventus for periods two weeks ago. Chelsea need to start scoring and with such an immobile striker unsettling the way the whole team plays, dropping Torres is the short term solution, regardless of who replaces him.
Recall Romeu for Mikel
John Obi Mikel has had his critics at Chelsea. Widely it is accepted that he has improved in the last eighteen months, but in truth he is not good enough for the role of the defensive pivot. Against West Ham, particularly in the second half he was woefully exposed by on coming midfield runners such as Noble and Diame, who ran riot as West Ham secured the three points. Mikel only made two tackles and didn’t make a single interception against West Ham, looking slow and off the pace. He was perhaps as culpable as anyone for Chelsea’s decline in the second half as they completely lost control of the midfield.
Romeu on the other hand looks, in the flashes Chelsea fans have seen of him, the complete package in centre midfield. The young Spaniard is more mobile than Mikel, whilst also looking incredibly assured in possession. In his 90 minutes against Fulham only Ashley Cole had more touches than Romeu, out of any other player on the field. From a defensive point of view he also had three tackles and four interceptions, enjoying 79 passes. Mikel on the other hand only averages 59 passes per game. Of course Romeu might not be able to last the pace of the season but he might warrant a run, given how poor Mikel was against West Ham.
Re-configure the ‘three amigos’
The ‘three amigo’s started the season in dazzling form. Mata and Hazard looked absolutely unstoppable as Chelsea soared to the top of the league. However, in recent weeks Mata has been carrying the three, with Hazard and Oscar being less effective in the Premier League. After a flying start to the season Hazard’s form has taken a worrying nose-dive, which Benitez will need to address given that he is one of the clubs best attacking talents. Three goals and five assists is still good in just 14 games, but his contribution earlier in the season was certainly more impressive. He has also not played 90 minutes under Rafa yet. Perhaps he just needs a rest though, having started every Premier League game for Chelsea so far.
Benitez does need to get the balance between these three right though, in terms of when to attack and when to help out in defence. At times Chelsea look like there is no link between the ‘three amigos’ and the rest of the side, which might require Oscar tucking in a bit and linking the play. One of the issues under RDM was a lack of rotation which had led to Chelsea looking jaded lately. Getting the best out of these three players is absolutely crucial for Chelsea and for Benitez’s job security.
Sorting out these problems will be key for Benitez who in truth faces a battle to save his job at Chelsea, despite only being in charge such a short time. The fans do not like him and if results don’t follow pressure will mount on the former Liverpool manager. The Torres issue is perhaps the most pressing as the ‘three amigos’ would probably work better if they had a more capable striker making dangerous runs, rather than the static and timid Torres. For next weekend’s game then playing Sturridge and Romeu in place of Torres and Mikel would be bold but progressive from Benitez, who frankly needs to do something fast. This can start by Chelsea scoring goals, something they’ve struggled to do of late.
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