After FC Porto’s 1-0 Europa League triumph against Braga last May, many would be forgiven for believing Andre Villas–Boas’s managerial success was based on defensive solidity upon his appointment as the new manager of Chelsea.
However for those watching that Europa League final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, that Porto performance and score-line wasn’t typical of AVB’s side, nor was it of AVB’S managerial approach as a young, up and coming, forward-thinking Portuguese coach.
In fact last season Porto won Portugal’s Primeira Liga by an incredible 21 points ahead of domestic rivals Benficia and scoring 73 goals in 30 games along the way. But more importantly FC Porto’s treble win last term was largely attributed to their attacking nature.
Now hold that thought and cast your mind all the way back to Chelsea’s 2004-05 premier league campaign, their first under Jose Mourinho.
Yes, of course you will recall Chelsea comfortably winning the league losing just one game in the process but the more impressive statistic was the fact that side conceded just 15 league goals, the least in the Premier League that season. It was their defensive style of play under Mourinho which they became renowned for. Although supporters of other sides labelled them ‘boring Chelsea’ it worked and became the foundation to their success even after Jose left in 2007.
Only in two seasons since 2004-05 have Chelsea not conceded the least goals in the Premier League and last season Chelsea again let in the least amount of league goals joint with Manchester City.
However this season Chelsea’s attack minded style of play under AVB hasn’t resembled that of his Portuguese predecessor’s in the slightest as Chelsea’s defensive focus has been emphatically altered to attack.
Since keeping a clean sheet in the league away at Stoke on the opening day, Chelsea have failed to muster up any since however and conceded 9 goals in their 5 home fixtures this term. Wins at home to West Brom and Norwich were far from assured as the last 10 minutes proved pivotal in both games, so perhaps it was only a matter of time and no disrespect to those sides mentioned until a top team came to Stamford Bridge and gave the Chelsea defence something to really think about.
However AVB has came out post Arsenal and stated his attacking style will continue to be implemented on the side and in light of that perhaps one reason why it hasn’t really taken off as of yet is because there hasn’t been one talisman playing upfront who has been in sensational form.
Yes, there have been glimpses and periods of games where Chelsea’s attacking tendencies have been evident for example against Genk in the champions league the blues ran riot, even during the loss to Manchester United you felt Chelsea gave it a good go and were unlucky to run out 3-1 losers as they had chances and played with 3 upfront and with real attacking prowess.
But it’s no surprise that attack minded sides do tend to possess a really consistent goal-getter take the example of Barcelona Lionel Messi who scored 31 league goals last season, and even more intriguing AVB’S Porto last season had Hulk and Falcao to account for 74 goals between them in all competitions. Contrast that to Chelsea whose top scorer in the league was Florent Malouda who chipped in with 13 goals.
Now look at Chelsea’s striking options at 33 Didier Drogba would be the first to admit he’s past his best years and has only netted once this season as has his team mate Nicolas Anelka who again is into the latter stages of his career. That leaves just Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres and 18 year old Romelu Lukaku who is yet to open his account for the blues.
Chelsea’s £50 million forward Fernando Torres can definitely be the man to score on a consistent basis, and has all the pedigree and experience to do so, however after suffering with form and fitness since his arrival he really needs to start delivering consistently. His performance despite his infamous miss against Manchester United was very positive combined with his finish against Swansea it was frustrating to see him get a suspension as he was really starting to look as though he would put some form together on the back of those lively performances.
Daniel Sturridge is a player I believe should be given more of a run out in the league as I believe he will thrive on starting week in week out for the blues, although he’s only made 5 league starts he’s scored 4 goals and is currently Chelsea’s top league scorer amongst the strikers. He proved he can score goals at this level during his loan spell at Bolton and is still and young man and one I believe will really develop if given more responsibility at Chelsea, you only have to look at the example of Danny Welbeck.
So after the home defeat to Arsenal what should Chelsea do given their attacking predicament? I believe it should be back to basics for the blues and they should be set up to be defensively sound as this is one of their key strengths.
But under AVB it looks unlikely that he will revert to this mode of play and I feel its time Fernando Torres started playing with Daniel Sturridge every week in the league as I’m sure the goals will start to mount up from the pair, sooner rather than later.
By Simon Blaquiere