Date: 15th August 2011 at 11:00am
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With AVB’s first competitive game under the belt one can’t help but feel a little disappointed with the one point from the Britannia. In a game where Chelsea were dominant for the most part and came to life in the last third it’s safe to say that there should have been more from this game than what we got. Still early days in the league season however, and nobody ever won the league on the first day, but when you are Chelsea the standard is always high and the expectation is always of victory, regardless.

Looking at the game, I must admit that I was quite surprised to see Torres getting the nod ahead of Drogba. A masterstroke it proved to be as Torres worked tirelessly leading the attack. He moved very well, showed craft and inventiveness and created space and opportunity for himself and his team. He is definitely looking like he is coming in to some form and the goals are on the horizon.

Chelsea lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Bosingwa and Cole bombing down the flanks. Bosingwa might have played his best game yet with Ivanovic on the bench, possibly as cover after his injury, and the Portuguese held his own at right back, attacking freely and getting back into good covering positions.

After settling down Chelsea looked very comfortable on the ball and started moving it around freely with Ramires and Torres getting into good positions. With the fans in full cry, Chelsea pressed on and came close to opening the score many times but the stubborn Stoke resistance stood firm and kept the Blues at bay. There were some shaky moments at the back with Cech being pressed by the Stoke forwards chasing after a typical Delap throw which had Cech flapping at times.

The tactic of Delap’s throws was predictable to say the least and even in times when Stoke should have played a quick ball in, the wait for Delap to move from the back gave us enough time to set up and defend. Cech had a relatively quiet game such that he acted as a sweeper playing very high up behind the last man. His positioning against the Delap throw was great as most keepers typically attack the area where the ball is falling from a running start. This usually pins keepers back onto the line and gives the oncoming forwards time and space in the box but Cech reduced this space and bossed that area very effectively.

The second half saw a much more open game with both teams pushing forward and getting closer to finding the opening. Chelsea moved the ball much quicker across the park and one feels that the intent was there having survived the best that Stoke had to offer in the first 45. Torres came close yet again and was a yard from the line and fluffed his shot with some assistance from Woodgate’s arm.

Lampard’s biggest contribution to the half was the run in to the box and his penalty appeal. I have seen them given before, but with the benefit of HDTV and the super slow-mo replay it was pretty clear that my initial profanity aimed at the ref was misguided in that instant.

I would have liked to see Mikel push up with more regularity in this game and one wonders if that is as a result of his instructions or his own demeanour. The Stoke midfield are not that good that they need a dedicated holding midfielder because most of their attack was either a long ball launched or attacks down the flanks. Pushing forward would have seen Ramires being freed up to assist the attacking trident and with the Brazilian’s nifty footwork in those areas we could have been in with a serious chance. It’s safe to say that the question of how to play Anelka-Drogba-Torres together was answered a bit today as we saw all three of them working together in the final 15 minutes of the game. The introduction of Anelka added a bit more spark to the attack and he found himself with space on the left on a few occasions before cutting inside and being denied by some good keeping after his deft chip to the top corner.

Stoke were definitely the happier of the two sides after this opening day and with the first home game coming up next week I would expect that there will be a serious shifting through the gears in the team’s attacking and creative intent. Maybe it’s time to give young Josh McEachran a run in the middle after his stellar showing in the preseason. With his array of passing and his natural ability to create, he could just be the answer that we are looking for going into the new season.

Keep the Blue Flag Flying high!

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