When you win against the table-topping Manchester City earlier in the week, a win against relegation-battling Wigan Athletic should have been a mere formality. Not for Chelsea, who were frustrated up north and means that all the hard work on Monday has had no effect. The first half was largely sloppy, but when red-hot Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring for Chelsea near the hour mark, it appeared that Chelsea would go home with an early Christmas present. But Jordi Gomez snatched an unlikely point for Wigan, leaving AVB and Chelsea still six points away from the top. Below, I outline where we went wrong on a cold day up in Wigan.
Things we learnt from the match
1. Our mind-set was shocking.
From the start, we were so lackadaisical. It appeared as though we felt we had won the match before a ball was even kicked. We lacked the energy, the desire to really go forward. Three points were there for the taking, but only one was taken. With Wigan setting up as a 5-4-1, we had to be prepared to be frustrated. But the powerhouse Drogba seemed tired (he did say he was not 100% fit), and Mata was finding it hard to weave his way through the Wigan defence. The minds of AVB and the players seemed to be veering towards Thursday’s Tottenham match, which was incredibly foolish – the job was not done here. A cold evening on a poor pitch, but Chelsea really ought to have gone forward with more menace, knowing that they are still playing catch-up to the Manchester sides.
2. Our substitutions were bizarre.
A half-time substitution getting rid of anchorman Oriol Romeu and putting on the Kalou-less Ivorian completely wrecked our shape, so much so there was no real formation. When Wigan had more possession, AVB effectively pressed the “undo” button, bringing on Mikel for Mata, reasserting our authority, but any Chelsea fan would prefer to have Romeu and Mata on than their poor men’s equivalent. Taking off on-form Sturridge for aging Malouda never struck the right chord either, making us really lazy and made us sit back, when the match was by no means over at 1-0. We paid for it.
3. Key players needed to start.
I understand that there’s a big Tottenham match on Thursday, but I repeat: on Thursday. Resting key players was suicidal here. And when I say key, I mean Ramires, and believe it or not, Torres. Ramires is the engine of the side, with his non-stop work ethic and drive. Torres, on a barren run, would have suited Wigan. It would have given a “not 100% fit” Drogba time to rest and so he can be ready for Spurs. But omitting them both was bizarre. David Luiz also could have come back. Been criticised as a defender, but did Wigan really set out to attack? His attacking prowess could have caused them even more trouble. Combined with even weirder substitutions and a dismal mindset, we lost a game that was ours.
4. We need to be more efficient.
We had 10 shots today, yet just the one goal. One in ten as a shots-to-goals conversion rate is dire. We need to create more space, create more obvious chances, and catch them out. All shots, bar Sturridge’s goal, was easy for Al Habsi. He needed to be tested more. As said, Drogba lacked the killer punch, whilst Sturridge, who does have that in him at the moment, was wasted too much on the wing. That needs to change. A good conversion rate is one in three, not one in ten.
5. We need to stop being so sloppy.
Their equaliser was a stupid gift. Cech could have been more commanding, Ivanovic and Cole were nowhere to be seen. But the moments prior to that gave us an indication of their intent to snatch something, a tip we did not heed. Di Santo’s effort was blocked by a headed Ivanovic clearance, and Cech had to make some good saves. We should have kept the ball better, but instead, Wigan capitalised when they say we were getting sloppy. The substitutions were at fault. Mikel looks much shakier on the ball than Romeu, who was clearly taught well at his time in Barcelona. Malouda does not possess the gift Mata has of keeping the ball, and we looked all over the place. Against a Wigan side, we should be looking at a comfortable 3-0, 4-0 win. Approaching the last ten minutes, what was out game plan? To hold out a 1-0? That’s suicidal. A 1-0 is never safe, as we found out the hard way.
A frustrating match and just the one point taken. Chelsea have taken a step back from their great week last week. Tottenham is on Thursday, and as the Chelsea players’ and staff’s mind seemed to all be on that, we shall see how well we do in five days time.
Leave me a comment below or follow me on Twitter.