After the first 2 impressive victories against West Bromwich and Wigan, Chelsea actually had to work a bit last Saturday against a defensively well-organized Stoke City team.
Judging by the scoreline one would not realize how close this game could have been had Stoke not hit the bar when the score was still 1-0 in favour of the blues. Stoke managed to outline some of the fears I’ve been having since last season. Chelsea still don’t have that one player capable of opening up defenses individually and force a path to the goals. The team relies only on its outstanding passing game. Only problem is, against very compact and organized defenses, the passing game does not always work. This was the case against Inter last season, and may very well happen again. The only player who seems to be able to take on this role to a certain extent is Florand Malouda. Yet, Malouda is a winger type player and will typically dribble his way onto the sides and look for a cross inside the box. To make up for this weakness, Chelsea should have reinforced the squad with a player of the calibre of Aguero or Neymar, who would provide just this type of skill and would have been able to grow with the club. However, since that was not done, Ancelotti needs to pick a player or 2 in his current squad whom he can groom to take on that role. Benayoun and Kakuta are the most likely candidates in my opinion. They are both very technical players and seem to have great vision. These players could be Ancelotti’s secret weapon to a sometime predictable Chelsea team.
Another key component to the team’s success will be Mikel. In my opinion, he is the most improved player so far. Let’s hope he can maintain this consistency, but he has been outstanding so far. He is the player who touches the ball the most on the team, and he rarely loses it. He no longer settles for the easy short pass to the side, he looks up for the best options and sends a long ball if needed. One can feel Carlo’s touch in his evolution; he is molding him into a deep lying playmaker, rather than a simple opponent’s play-breaker. His duties have changed and he seems to enjoy and grow with the task, just like it was the case for Anelka last season. Let’s hope this lasts!