Billed as a huge game by all, this exciting London derby could only end in a stalemate, leaving the two clubs further adrift in the title race. Tottenham went into this match full of confidence, higher than their opponents in the table, so Chelsea’s instalment as bookies’ favourite raised some eyebrows. The result was never in question though, a hard-fought draw, which in truth, any side could have nicked. Chances galore, but just the two goals in it, the first within eight minutes, Bale running riot over Bosingwa, and his low cross was hesitantly handled by Cech, who allowed Adebayor in to poke home.
Sturridge continued his sensational form with another goal to level things, and that was how it remained. A year to remember for him, but here are five things we learnt during the derby:
1. Ramires needs to learn how to shoot.
This Brazilian is a handful for any team. Bags of pace, energy, and incredibly light on the feet. But of all the attributes he does possess, scoring is not one. Time and again in the season, let alone this match, he has run his way past the defenders. But the end product cannot match the build up. On several occasions he could have wrapped it up here. He was through one on one against Friedel, who had to make a customary save. Really, the Brazilian, had it been Drogba, Lampard, or even Torres, they would have scored. He also had another chance near the end. Found some space superbly, but his header from four yards was not on target. He needs to learn how to find the back of the net. A great player who brings so much to the team, but he could be so much more useful if he shored up on his weaknesses.
2. We need to pick the bench more carefully.
I’ve noticed pretty much all season how attacking Chelsea’s bench is under AVB. We only had one proper defender on the bench, with Torres, Malouda, Kalou and Lampard included too. What are we going to do with all this? What is the point of having Torres, Malouda and Kalou on the bench together? Does AVB want to change his entire front three, take off the Mata-Drogba-Sturridge partnership and put on Malouda-Torres-Kalou? That will never happen in a match. It’d be stupid. So why is he wasting his options by doing so? The proper defender I mentioned we had wasn’t even a centre-back, but a right-back. So when Ivanovic gets injured, what happens? Ferreira had to come on, and right-back Bosingwa was made a stand-in centre back. He played superbly there, but come on, he is not a centre back. When Mikel was injured, we had Romeu to cover, who I felt should have started all along. Maybe AVB needs to pick his bench more carefully.
3. Fulham and Aston Villa at home are must win matches.
Five unbeaten matches now. But saying that, the last two have been draws. If we draw the next two, people will be talking about a slump again. AVB seemed really satisfied with the one point against Spurs. He wasn’t hiding anything – pre-match he says that Chelsea “need to get something from the game” (implying he’ll settle for a point, else he would have said they need to win), and post-match, he lavished praised on all his “exceptional”, “over-the-top” players. High praise indeed. It appears as though he has mentally succumbed to the fact that the title belongs up north somewhere this year. But top four is still a necessity. And so wins are still needed. What better than Fulham and Villa at home.
4. We need Torres back in form (partnership with Drogba?)
It really bugs me that Torres and Drogba “cannot play together”. Of course they can. They aren’t magnets that repel each other. Stick them on together and give them a chance. Give. Them. A. Chance. Why not? Tuck Mata in, make a 4-4-2-Diamond, and play Drogba and Torres together. You’re asking “Well hold on, where does Sturridge go?”, and in that case, I’d say try a 4-2-4, with Mata left-wing, Sturridge right, Drogba as striker and Torres just behind as centre-forward. Why not? We need him back on form, just for about all possible reasons, none more so than the fact our Ivorian striking duo depart soon for the African Cup of Nations. Often when Torres is lone striker, he is rubbish, like in his 13-minute cameo last night. Why? Confidence. If he had a fearsome partner in Drogba, they would be a real, real handful. People would be attracted to Drogba, freeing Torres. A problem shared is a problem halved.
5. We need stability.
Again, AVB rung the changes. Lampard was off again, Luiz injured granted, and Meireles and Mikel came in. Er, why? Football’s a brutal sport. It isn’t a “I’ll pick you today but I promise I’ll pick you next game” type of sport. If you want someone as your player, play with him. AVB doesn’t appear to do that. Just as soon as Romeu (not to pick on him, just saying) is getting to grips with the English game and fitting in, he is benched and the dazed Mikel comes back in. Why? What’s the point? It disrupts everything. Other players had just got to learn how Romeu plays, for example, and hold on, they have to hesitate and remember how Mikel likes the ball, or how he passes it to make sure you’re in the right positions. Unnecessary AVB, unnecessary.
Five points from me, but one for Chelsea. How much AVB will listen, I will see first-hand on Boxing Day. And on that note, a very Merry Christmas. May 2012 be a year where things happen for Chelsea.