Two games into the season and Chelsea have struggled to make much of an impression. Andre Villas-Boas’ side have dominated both their opening fixtures in terms of possession – 66% at Stoke followed by 67% at home to West Brom on Saturday evening – but it’s already obvious that in order to implement the new manager’s philosophy, more creativity in the key attacking areas is needed.
At present, both full-backs, Ashley Cole (Escape from Victory) and Jose Bosingwa (Gordon’s Alive!), have carried the game to Chelsea’s opponents more than any Blues player. Re-installed to the first-team this season, Bosingwa showed on Sunday that his attacking tendencies could be a vital component of Villas-Boas’ team over the 2011/12 season.
Both players have picked up the maximum 3 Bonus Points in each of Chelsea’s first two games- Cole in Gameweek 1 and Bosingwa in Gameweek 2- and with that in mind, here’s some analysis on the pair’s respective performances at Stamford Bridge against the Baggies.
Cole and Bosingwa versus West Brom
A look at the Chelsea average position map from the Baggies game highlights just how far forward Cole (3) and Bosingwa (17) played- the pair were almost as high up the pitch in possession as Frank Lampard (8) and Ramires (7) and both saw far more of the ball.
Bosingwa, in particular, was a real stand-out against Roy Hodgson’s side. He made 102 passes, more than any other player this Gameweek and with 68% of his distribution in the opposition half, he carries a significant threat going forward for Chelsea. Cole made 73 passes, a substantial drop in comparison, with 70% coming in the Baggies half.
Lampard and Ramires Passing
Much of this difference in the number of passes each full-back made can be attributed to the midfielders on either side of John Obi Mikel. When the ball went left, Cole had Frank Lampard (The Wait is Over) to contend with for possession whereas on the right, Bosingwa had Ramires (Gordon’s Alive!). Lampard was far more willing to take on responsibility and make things happen- Cole made 16 passes to Lampard but received 8 in return.
On the other flank, Bosingwa passed to Ramires 13 times and received 11 in return- a far more even ratio. Lampard made a total of 70 passes to Ramires’ 45- clearly, when the ball went right, Bosingwa was far more liable to be the player in possession and as a result, created the assist for Florent Malouda’s (El Tel) winner.
For as much as the Chelsea full-backs were impressive going forward, West Brom’s lack of width was noticeable on Saturday evening and summed up Roy Hodgson’s savvy tactics. A look at the average position map show the two midfield wide men, Chris Brunt (11) and James Morrison (7) stayed narrow and with both central midfielders, Paul Scharner (33) and Youssuf Mulumbu (21) shielding the back-four, Villas-Boas’ side were unable to find a way through from central areas.
Aware of Chelsea’s lack of central cutting edge, Hodgson allowed Villas-Boas’ side the flanks, meaning Cole and Bosingwa bombed forward and left space at the back. When in possession West Brom hit 69 Long Balls for the hard-working front two, Shane Long and Somen Tchoyi , to chase into the space vacated- the ploy clearly worked as John Terry and Alex were troubled with the Baggies strikers’ movement throughout.
Though it’s early days in his stewardship, it’s clear Villas-Boas is still searching for a better balance. There’s something of an air of predictability about the Blues right now and it’s a problem the new boss must solve if he’s to live up to the heady levels of expectancy so typical of the Roman Abramovich regime.
The news that the club have agreed a fee with Valencia for the services of Juan Mata represents a significant step forward in his rebuilding process. Someone with the ability to beat a man and unlock defences from the middle of the park will not only add a vital component to Chelsea’s play and bring Villas-Boas a step closer to his ideal line-up, it will perhaps prevent the likes of Hodgson setting his team out in such a stolid and stubborn manner.