The final result yesterday flattered Chelski as we did not deserve to lose by that four goal margin.
In the first half we had more possession, we played a very effective high defensive line, gaining numerous offside decisions and restricting them to just two shots – both off target. Admittedly we only had two shots but one – the snap shot from Sandro well saved by Cech – was on target.
Playing a weird 4-1-4-1 formation with no outright wingers (despite Lennon and Siggy being in the team) we compressed the play and for 55 minutes it worked. Chelski simply could not cope with our constant hounding and harrying, but then disaster struck.
In attempting to take on an opponent Vertonghen´s feet slipped from beneath him and as he hit the deck he twisted and kicked the ball in the general direction of where Kaboul should have been. Unfortunately Kaboul was at that moment feeling his calf and so, was out of position. Instead the ball fell to Eto´o and the ball was in the net.
A few minutes later and yet another slip, only this time it was Eto´o himself who stumbled under minimal contact from Kaboul. It was not a foul, let alone a penalty or a red card yet once again we found ourselves 2 goals behind, and down to ten men, against one of the favourites to win the Premier League.
With four defenders still on the pitch the sensible thing to do would have been to re-arrange the defence, move Vertonghen into the middle and put Walker in at full back – left or right – with Naughton on the other flank. Instead Sherwood inexplicably moved Sandro into central defence, leaving the midfield wide open.
There is no point in Sherwood criticising his player´s “lack of character” when the tactics he employed were – on this occasion – unfathomable.
Of course he had no option but to deploy Vertonghen centrally when Dawson went off, but again he kept Walker in midfield. We showed good spirit but were always on the back foot and then, with just two minutes remaining, Sandro slipped whilst attempting to clear and presented Ba with the opportunity to make it three, which soon became four when Walker´s long backward header failed to reach Lloris with Ba slipping in and prodding the ball into an empty net.
Some people – Sherwood included – have suggested that we capitulated yet we played 30 minutes with ten men, lost our captain to injury and held out for all but those last two minutes. Hardly capitulation.
But we must pick ourselves up and get on with the rest of the season, starting with Benfica on Thursday.
The defence virtually picks itself as Kaboul will be available – any ban he gets will only affect league games – while Dawson will not be risked even if he recovers from his injury – he will be needed for game against Le Arse unless Chiriches has recovered fully.
But we need goals, so who occupies the forward positions will be critical. Hopefully Eriksen and Dembele will be fully fit as they will be needed to unlock the Portuguese giants defence – we need a serious advantage to take to Lisbon if we are going to progress.