Long gives Chelsea short shrift as Di Matteo takes evasive action
It is hardly a surprise that the air turned blue in the Chelsea dressing room. This was a fourth successive Premier League match without a win and prompted fresh questions, as well as a few choice words, about the reasons for Chelsea’s annual collapse at the first sign of a cold snap.
“That’s f***ing rubbish” was overheard being shouted in a frank exchange of views during the post-match inquest. “It is normal,” David Luiz said, when asked about the raised voices. “This is a big club, and in a big club you cannot lose games.”
Roberto Di Matteo needs no telling that is the case, which is why the Chelsea manager is taking evasive action at the earliest opportunity to prevent a damaging run of results from turning into something more sinister. The flamboyant football which served Chelsea so well earlier in the season, when they blazed a trail at the top of the table, looks like going into hibernation, in favour of a more defensive approach, probably in the form of a 4-3-3 formation that turns into 4-5-1 without the ball.
Chelsea have gone nine games without a clean sheet and conceded 18 goals in the process, which would be a dreadful record at any time of the season but leaves the European champions looking particularly vulnerable ahead of a daunting week. Di Matteo’s side take on Juventus in Turin tomorrow, where a defeat against the Serie A leaders would severely jeopardise their chances of reaching the knockout stage of the Champions League, before welcoming Manchester City to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
John Terry’s absence has clearly hurt Chelsea and this was another occasion when David Luiz demonstrated why he cannot be considered a reliable replacement.
Only the Brazilian knows what he was doing when he allowed the outstanding Shane Long, who ran Chelsea’s defence ragged at times, to get away from him before heading home James Morrison’s centre for West Bromwich Albion’s opening goal. The defending was not much better on Albion’s second, when Long drifted out wide before delivering a fine cross that Peter Odemwingie nodded past Petr Cech, after getting in front of Ryan Bertrand, to restore the home team’s advantage following Eden Hazard’s headed equaliser.
Di Matteo, however, refused to point the finger of blame and claimed the responsibility for such poor concessions was collective. “I don’t think it is just an individual issue, I think as a team we have to be better defending,” he said.
Up front things are no better as Fernando Torres struggled again. Asked if he was prepared to drop the Spaniard against Juventus, Di Matteo said: “If I believe it is the right thing to do for the team, then yeah.” ”