Rafael Benitez is feeling the heat once again following Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at St Mary’s Stadium against Southampton in the Premier League and dealt a blow to the West Londoners as they attempt to negotiate a congested fixture schedule.
There were many talking points before and after the game, but what did Chelsea learn from their defeat at the hands of the Saints?
1. Wrong team selection?
Probably the most discussed topic amongst the fans as many were surprised to see what was considered a weaker XI taking the field yesterday, especially as finishing in the top four has to be the club’s priority. Of course, before the games there was those of us that dabbled with the idea of trusting the side to do the job against Southampton despite a few changes (myself included) but I don’t think anyone expected to see a side without Juan Mata and Eden Hazard.
Now, some of the changes were forced upon the manager as Mata was suffering a fever, Gary Cahill is unavailable, Brazilian duo David Luiz and Ramires are coming back from recent knocks. But most aren’t excusing the fact that Hazard didn’t start and although he played 180 minutes of football for Belgium during the international break, they felt it was a monumental error to leave him out.
2. Where’s the fight?
That’s enough of discussing those that were missing, the players that are on the pitch didn’t cover themselves in glory and it was disappointing to see what could have been considered a lack of effort. I don’t want to criticise the likes of Marko Marin and Ryan Bertrand too much as they haven’t played as much for various reasons, and John Terry has been in-and-out of the team, but I really expect better from Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Branislav Ivanovic, Cesar Azpilicueta, Victor Moses, Oscar and Fernando Torres. These lads are all internationals, have played regular football for the first team and cannot be considered ‘weak’.
Part of the motivation process is down to the manager, who picks the side and organises them as he sees fit. I don’t know what he’s saying to them in team meetings, but regardless of that fighting for top four as well as two cups should be motivation enough, not to mention the fact that putting an effort in for those that put their hands in their pockets to follow you is the very least you should do.
3. The problem area:
The midfield has been the position that seems to have cost us the most this season and we have constantly struggled in this area, Southampton didn’t even have much difficulty overpowering both Mikel and Lampard, and the fact we sold Raul Meireles, loaned out Michael Essien and haven’t bother to replace them either during the summer or winter is an absolute mockery.
Ramires and Mikel are probably the two that accompany each other the best even though they divide opinions individually, so I’d start them together more often than not whilst Lampard may start in that role at home and against certain opposition. But seeing as we’re being forced to rotate somewhat, I don’t see why Lampard cannot play further forward (even if it’s from the bench) in order to give a Mata, Hazard or Oscar a rest when it’s appropriate to do so.
4. The boy did good
Jack Cork spent 13 years at Chelsea, didn’t manage to make the step up into the first team but he’s started to fulfil his potential at Southampton and even though it’s unlikely that he would have ever been a starting player at the club you cannot help but feel this type of player may have proved as a useful squad addition with his neat passing and ball retention.
5. Hard work pays off
It’s a tiresome football cliché but Southampton were far more willing to work for their result as they battle the drop and deserved what they got.