Chelsea yet to address glaring weakness

BY foxsports • November 20, 2011

FOX Soccer's lead analyst reflects on the latest news in and around English soccer.

It was a super weekend of football, and I think we need to dive right in and talk about Manchester City. They beat my old club, Newcastle, on Saturday and while I wish it would had gone differently, I have to be honest and say I think that City were dominant.

They now have an aura and presence about them that make them look pretty close to being unbeatable at the moment. I think they have a great bond now as a team and it’s funny saying that considering everything that was swirling about them not so long ago. The ongoing Carlos Tevez situation, and all that negativity, has really knitted them together. The truth is, when you get a squad of players like that, world-class – and, with so many big egos – those type of men are not going to let one player destroy them. I honestly feel that the Tevez drama has made Roberto Mancini’s job a little easier, because it forced the team to play as a unit and the performances that followed have added belief. Maybe if things had gone differently at Old Trafford a few weeks ago we wouldn’t be saying it, but that win laid the seeds and I think they have to feel they can go all the way.

Tevez, on the other hand, has tarnished his name as a professional. I don’t think he’ll ever play for them again, but the way he has handled this is not at all what a player should be doing. He wasn’t going to figure in their plans, but he could have showed up, trained and gone about his job. Instead, you see him playing golf in Argentina and it just looks plain shabby to me. He’s going to find another team – he’s too good a player not to – but he’s run his name down with this.

I still think Newcastle will finish in the top eight. I spoke to John Carver this weekend – MLS fans will remember him from Toronto, he is a great guy who knows the game — and he was very honest. He told me that the club knows they’ve been doing well but that there is a gulf between them and United, City and Liverpool. I think what they are looking at is being in that second tier of teams: clubs with a shot of getting into a European place, but by no means sure of it. Spurs are in that mix, and probably Arsenal and Chelsea – there’s going to be a fight for fourth and Newcastle are one of the clubs that can snatch a place, but it will be a battle for them.

Sunday, we saw Chelsea crumble. We saw glimpses of this when they were run out at Old Trafford in the first half last month, but after they fell at Loftus Road to QPR, the uncertainty is really setting in. I think what has happened is that Andre Villas-Boas that hasn’t found his feet, and on top of that, isn’t sure of his tactics or personnel.

When Jose Mourinho was there, he didn’t always have the players, but he did have a formation. Villas-Boas has neither and you’re seeing it all over the field. They are a shadow of what they were at the back and in midfield they are being exposed often, conceding possession too easily from start to finish.

I also want to point out the decision not to start Fernando Torres. This is a case of a manager overthinking things. Torres and winger Juan Mata have looked fantastic together so by rights they should start, yet AVB’s inexperience has led him astray again. The fact is, Torres is the future at Stamford Bridge –Didier Drogba’s been a good solider, but he is older, been injured, and at some point, you have to take the plunge.

On the other hand, Kenny Dalglish was very smart, getting great games out of Lucas and Charlie Adam by flooding the midfield and making sure that John Obi Mikel was isolated today. I don’t know what Petr Cech was thinking tossing Mikel that ball, but the fact is, he had to play so deep and had no support from Frank Lampard or David Luiz. And Craig Bellamy had a fine game, again showing that when you run behind the Chelsea line, you expose a lot of their problems. You don’t want to play Chelsea physically because they can match you man-to-man, but if you isolate John Terry and run through them, they are very weak. I’m sorry, but Chelsea’s not a passing team, they are a team that right now has to hold the ball and slowly create opportunities. Dalglish took full advantage of that.

Last but not least, it’s MLS Cup tonight here in Los Angeles, and I have to give the Galaxy the nod. It’s all come together for them this season with the performances of David Beckham and Landon Donovan. Plus manager Bruce Arena has done a splendid job at the helm, while Robbie Keane has given LA the touch of class needed to get over the hump. I know a lot of people are saying this might be David’s swan song, but I think he’ll be back. I know he wants to be involved at the Olympics – and I hope he is for Team Great Britain – but I think he could stay and play in LA for another two or three years.

Thanks as always for watching FOX Soccer, and remember to tune in on Tuesday as the Champions League restarts. As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @warrenbarton2 and ask questions for this column each week via @FOXSoccer.

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