Chelsea must prove that it has all counted for nothing
Using a team’s pre-season form as gauge for the forthcoming season’s prospects is usually a pretty foolish thing to do. Time and time again we’ve been duped by clubs destroying all before them, only to falter as soon as the expectation kicks in. But whilst pre-season is most prominently a time for tweaking and conditioning, equally, you don’t want to go into the season on the back of several defeats.
And unfortunately for Roberto di Matteo’s Chelsea, that’s exactly what has happened. The Blues go into this Sunday’s Community Shield against Manchester City on the back of three straight defeats to the MLS All-Stars, AC Milan and Brighton and Hove Albion.
Furthermore, after shelling out hefty fees for a variety of attacking talent in Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar, it’s been at the back where Chelsea have looked like needing investment, having shipped in ten goals in their last five fixtures. It might be too early to say that Roberto Di Matteo’s honeymoon period is over, but at this rate, he might not even have one.
But you get the feeling that Chelsea could do with a decent performance against City this Sunday. The Community Shield isn’t necessarily an accurate Premier League barometer, but it will give us a good idea as to what sort of level Chelsea are competing at. It’s always played with the gusto of a Premier League encounter and supporters’ hopes are that Di Matteo’s men will be completing on a similar plateau as Mancini’s men next term.
One man who isn’t worrying too much is Frank Lampard and after missing the European Championships, the midfielder will be eager to get the Blues off to a flying start. He’s been there and done it and he isn’t wild pre-season assumptions aren’t something he’s willing to entertain.
Speaking about Chelsea’s pre-season blues, Lampard said:
“I’ve been in good pre-seasons which then haven’t panned out so well in the season, and been in ones that have been the other way round as well.
“It is very important we don’t make a big deal of this. We need to pick up on certain things that haven’t gone so well and work hard in training.
“The new signings have given us a nice feel and maybe we needed that to an extent – some fresh, young faces. But it’s very important we get the mix right between them and the experienced players.”
He’s been a part of far too many campaigns to get involved with the sort of stirring that’s currently going on, although Lampard was staunch in his admittance that are improvements to be made at Stamford Bridge. The performance at Brighton, in particular, will have been of some real cause for concern to supporters.
Chelsea fielded a very strong team at the Amex last week and put in a really poor performance as goals from Vicente, Ashley Barnes and Andrew Crofts secured victory for ex-Chelsea man Gus Poyet’s team. Top flight teams slumping to defeat against inferior opposition in pre-season is hardly something new, but the manner in which Chelsea did it didn’t leave too much room for optimism. Despite going close on several occasions, the Blues defended poorly throughout and old problems don’t seem to have gone away. Fernando Torres continued to look like a lost figure and the team lacked cohesion.
It’s easy to get too carried away and there from one game that could well have been a simple one off. And there were positives to be taken, too. Eden Hazard has looked lively throughout pre-season and to reference the Brighton game again, he was arguably Chelsea’s best player. Cohesion with their new attacking talent will take time to settle and Oscar is yet to even kick a ball in anger for Chelsea. There is plenty to be optimistic about.
But the truth is that they’re going to have to show a lot more against City this Sunday to suggest they are capable of really kicking on next season. Roberto Mancini’s men will be a hell of a lot more ruthless to the sort of discrepancies Di Matteo’s men have been showing in pre-season and the last thing they need is walloping in the Community Shield. You can argue whether a win in what is very much a ceremonial match, can give you that much momentum. But there’s no arguing about the effect of a serious defeat.
The pressure is already on Roberto Di Matteo to some degree. The whispers of form and performance are a by-product of something that the Italian has yet to really deal with during his Chelsea reign, and that is expectation. No one can take away his achievements of last season, but he wasn’t expected to succeed. The pressure was off and with nothing to loose, they had everything to gain. And gain it they did.
Although the best part of £70million has already been pumped back into this Chelsea team and with more arrivals set to come before the transfer window shuts, the expectation level will be cranked up a little further.
Sunday represents a chance to lay out a marker and demonstrate to all that they’re serious about making a charge next season. We will soon find out whether their disjointed pre season counts for anything.
Not worries about Chelsea’s pre-season or are you harbouring some deep concerns? Tell me how you think Sunday’s going to go on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and bat me your views.