As I didn’t watch this game live, I’ve dispensed with the full match analysis which, by now, others will have put on their blogs.
Instead, I’ve picked out some observations on the game, positive and negative, based on what television allows (never quite as good as “being there’ but better than nothing).
Regular readers will notice some recurring themes carrying forward from recent games.
The starting XI appeared to be based on pragmatism, following the midweek Internationals and with an eye towards Juventus in Turin.
6,000 air miles alone pointed to Ivanovic starting at Centre Back ahead of David Luiz. More so in view of starts for Azpilicueta and Bertrand. Shane Long’s pace may have been a mitigating factor.
Victor Moses played out of position on the left to accommodate Daniel Sturridge. Marin and Sturridge or Marin and Moses would have been a more natural combination either side of Hazard.
All the more strange as most of Chelsea’s offensive success came down the West Brom left, with Hazard ending up on the left after half an hour, with Sturridge in behind Torres and Moses moving to the right, where he looked more at home.
This was an Ideal game to start Daniel Sturridge at Centre Forward (not that he is for me), whilst sending Lukaku out on loan looks like folly given the lack of alternatives. 7 shots in the game (4 in the last 28 minutes at Centre Forward) but no goals shows Sturridge is not shy of shooting but lacks a killer finish and too often misses the target. One of his better games though and least he gets shots away.
In contrast, Fernando Torres had no shots in 63 minutes in another below par performance. Its increasingly difficult not to conclude that he’s a busted flush. The system we’re playing and the players we have this year give him a much improved supply line and far fewer excuses to hide. I know this won’t meet with universal agreement but I’m saying what I see and would love him to bang in 8 goals in the next 5 games to prove me wrong.
Another game, another early first goal conceded. We do not chase games well and cannot afford that luxury, regardless of the opposition, home or away.
Defensive howlers all round for the first West Brom goal. Azpilicueta, Romeu and Sturridge were all drawn to the ball but when it broke to Morrison he had time to pick his cross. Luiz went to sleep, allowing Long to peel off his shoulder and negate his height advantage to slot his header from point blank range.
Another goal conceded through deficiencies at Left Back. Odemwingie found it all too easy to brush aside Bertrand to head home Long’s cross for Albion’s winner. Ryan needs to compete much better physically if he’s going to make the position his own, long term.
Our lack of an incisive final ball when Mata doesn’t start is alarming with Azpilicueta’s crosses from wide the best examples on show before Mata came on.
Within seconds of coming on, Mata twice picked out Sturridge (now at Centre Forward) who could not convert. Another combination of the 2 with 13 minutes to go met with the same result but Sturridge’s movement at least was encouraging.
Eden Hazard did superbly for his goal. After spraying the ball out to Azpilicueta, he did superbly to pull off the back of Jones and head home the equaliser. If only he could beat the first defender with his inswinging corners.
Victor Moses’ lack of composure in front of goal continues. He blazed over from well inside the box at an angle when a low ball into an unmarked Sturridge would have given him a tap in at the back post. He should however have had a blatant penalty when Yacob’s shoulder charge went unpunished.
This defeat and draws with Swansea and Liverpool should temper fans’ expectations to a realistic level. 22 points from the first 24 available for our young side was a little flattering whilst 2 from the last 12 has brought us back down to earth. A top 4 finish remains the objective, anything more is a bonus.
For me, Robbie Di Matteo is a better manager in Cup competitions than over the course of a Premier League season. He nevertheless deserves the time to put his stamp on an evolving squad. Calls for his head after a defeat to a side who started the day in fifth are frankly absurd.
Follow Chris Davies on Twitter: @chrisdaviescfc