Are Chelsea Ready To Mount A Title Challenge?
By Oliver Wilson
Roberto Di Matteo is confident that his Chelsea side is ready to mount a Premier League title push even if a others can't match the Italians optimism after two unconvincing wins in the opening week of the season.
The Chelsea manager spoke of his side’s prowess going forward after their 4-2 win over newly promoted Reading on Wednesday night, and few could argue that the Blues looked a force to be reckoned with in their opponents final third.
Their defensive line, however, looks as leaky as the tap in a student flat, and has struggled to deal with the attacking threat of two sides who could easily be involved in the relegation battle come May next year.
“I always thought that we were ready to start the league,” was Di Matteo’s response when asked about any weaknesses the first two games of the season might have exposed in his side.
“You’re never 100% sure but I know the players did well in pre-season, not in terms of results, but the way they worked.
“They were ready for it and looking forward to the start of the season.”
The managers words were an attempt to smooth over the negative feeling that’s already surrounding his side’s defence and, although Chelsea sit on top of the Premier League table with a 100% record, many expect to see a drastic improvement from John Terry co in time for Newcastle's visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Reading were aggressive on the flanks on Wednesday evening, with right midfielder Gareth McCleary pushing Ashley Cole onto his heals as the 25-year-old attacker looked to expose the space presented to him whenever the England international pushed forward.
Unfortunately for Chelsea this has happened far too often in both their opening fixtures, as their two attacking fullbacks of Branislav Ivanovic and Cole look to support the attack.
Wigan, and especially Reading, have found joy in the space presented to them by both defenders while Jon Obi Mikel and Frank Lampard been stretched as they try to provide support for their centre-backs both on the flanks, and through the middle.
The aggressive nature of Chelsea’s formation means they will score goals, but sterner defenses, like the one found at Manchester City will find ways of coping with the combination of Edin Hazard, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata.
Teams that can do this will punish the Londoners on the counter attack, with Brian McDermott’s Reading side almost doing just that, were it not for a ill-sighted linesman who failed to notice Fernando Torres wandering a yard offside before tucking home Chelsea’s third on the night.
Di Matteo’s men have been given a get out of jail free card with their opening two fixtures and their attacking prowess, plus Wigan’s inability to finish chances, has just about dragged them to thier two wins this season.
The European Champions, though, look far from the finished article as they head into a difficult weekend tie against Newcastle and the European Super Cup next week, and if holes continue to appear in their defence, Chelsea will struggle to keep pace with the two Manchester giants in the title race.
it's a long race to the finish, but glaring issues are already visable down at Stamford Bridge.