Saturday, August 05, 2006
MLS All-Stars 1, Chelsea 0
Chelsea's preseason USA swing started today. It was an interesting game against the MLS XI, althought a few of the MLS guys weren't there. Donovan, Dempsey, Pope, Johnson, Mastroeni were all out with injury or laziness. Doesn't make much sense to me as this was a great opportunity to show your worth against one of the best teams in the world. Anyways, Chelsea was massively unimpressive, and downright worrysome. The scoreline is misleading because the goal was scored in the second half when Chelsea had put most of their reserves on. I don't know if anybody watched the game, but did anyone else watch Ballack and Lampard share attacking midfield responsibilities and instantly think of the England midfield situation. You know the one where we watched Lampard and Gerrard split responsibilities to the ultimate detrement of the England attack. They were never able to figure out how to work that system under Sven, and I was getting an awful feeling of deja vu watching Chelsea today. Granted, its the first time the team play together, but it was enough to worry me. On top of that, it was just downright weird to see Chelsea try to move the ball around on the attack in the 4-4-2. They were terrible at moving the ball, too many people were trying to go forward at once, really there was just no consistency at all in the attack today. The Chelsea midfield, full of stars, supposed to be the greatest in the world, looked confused and flat today; and I'd be lying if I said I was anything short of extremely concerned.
Essien, Lampard, Ballack, and Wright-Phillips started in the midfield today, that is two of the four who will be starting when the season begins. Claude Makelele? Still on vacation from the World Cup. Joe Cole? Well, he came in to start the second half, but to go with all the other wonderful events of the day, Joe Cole got injured. No word yet on how serious the injury was, but it doesn't bode well for Chelsea. Just as he was beginning to really take form as one of the better midfielders in England, he goes down with injury. On the subject of Wright-Phillips, the jury is still out. After an extremely dissapointing season in his first year from Manchester City, there are some extremely anxious people awaiting to see if SWP will begin earning his keep. Today he looked like he lacked skill and focus, his pace was exhilirating as usual, but I still haven't been impressed with the 37 million pound purchase. Michael Ballack showed signs of restrained brilliance around the ball, but I got the feeling he was holding back because of Lampard. He seems to respect the fact that it is Lampard's team for now, but we all know how well Frank handles pressure and if doubts start to creep into his mind...this could turn out extremely ugly. Lampard's performance mirrored his efforts from the World Cup, that scares the daylights out of me. Frank has been the engine of this team for the last few years, and sure Ballack could take his spot up in a heartbeat (he could probably do it a lot better than Lampard, but I am not ready to admit this to myself just yet), but I would hate to see this whole situation go down the way it is heading.
The horrendous play of the midfield caused lapses in the defense, and a lack of productivity from Shevchenko and Drogba up front. Drogba is playing the same speedy, accurate, and passionate play he always has. Shevchenko looks like he will compliment the system beautifully. This is the one spot where I thought Wright-Phillips looked excellent. With the pace and precision of the two forwards, SWP created matchup headaches for the MLS stars. If SWP can hone his skills a little more, and develop some of his handling skills, then everything I have said is pretty meaningless. SWP will fill Cole's spot perfectly, and Makelele will take over the postion of holding midfielder, alleviating some of the stress on the defense. As for Lampard and Ballack...we have the same situation we had in Germany with Sven. One of them has to stay back, one of them has to take a drop in popularity, scoring, and fame. I don't think that is going to happen. Nobody wants to be second banana.
Pictures are thanks to Soccernet.com and Chelseafc.com. First one was during the game, second is a picture of Ballack and Lampard at practice, and the third is the same thing but with Ballack making Lampard and Terry look foolish. Bit of the new guard displacing the old. The second two were both pulled off the first ten photos on the Chelseafc.com website, kinda interesting no?