The Barcelona defeat wasn’t as bad as it seemed, but the side is still nowhere near where they need to be with their personnel.
Obviously nobody is okay with today. But there are important things to consider.
1: We hit two bars and Courtois had the worst day I’ve ever seen him have. We hit a bar or two in the first leg and conceded on the only defensive mistake we made. The aggregate score simply doesn’t reflect the reality of the tie. This could easily have been a CFC win. Barca is the better side, but the better side loses sometimes.
2: Conte wanted more talent in the summer. Conte wanted more talent in January. Conte has certainly annoyed the piss out of the front office with his refusal to shut up about needing more talent.
Conte was right.
About the Personnel Thing
We knew going into the season we needed an A+ striker and depth at the position. We got a guy who I think is going to be very good but who remains a bit inexperienced. Batman wasn’t quite what he needed to be – again, he’s young – although his loan spell has him performing very well against opponents that are generally on par with the bottom half of the Prem and the Championship. We knew he could do that, but now he gets regular run-out and can build on his skills and confidence.
In other words, we were light up top.
We knew we needed a real 10. Fab has a great moment every 3-4 games but is otherwise invisible (unless he’s coughing up the ball in midfield to set up an opposing goal). Right now Willian is the best 10 we have and he isn’t a 10. (Hell, right now he and Kante are the best players we have period.)
We knew we needed to be a little stronger on the wing. Alonso is fine, and Moses + Zappa add up to a really good winger. I love Moses, but his mind goes blank when he approaches the edge of the box.
On the whole, though, Chelsea is trying to win A+ competitions with B+ talent. Conte was right, and if we don’t address the situation it won’t matter whether Conte stays or goes, and if he goes it won’t matter who you bring in. The current approach to personnel will not beat City and it won’t beat most of the sides in the UCL final 8.
Who Stays, Who Goes?
Courtois is an outstanding keeper, despite today’s dogbutt performance. I can’t help wondering if he’s gone in the summer because he really wants to be in Madrid close to his kids. If he goes, getting Navas coming the other way wouldn’t be a bad play.
- Christensen is the future.
- Dave is one of the best on the planet.
- Rudi isn’t as good, but is certainly a fantastic fourth option back there.
- Sideshow is already gone after his last performance.
- Cahill needs to be starting center back and captain. At Spurs.
- Bring back Zouma and we have Ampadu (who is poised well beyond his years) and all of a sudden you have one of the better back lines in the world. And it’s young, so this can be a foundation to build on for a decade.
- Pay Kante whatever he wants. For life.
- Drinky is a solid squad option.
- Bakayoko … I thought he was just needing time to catch up to the Prem, but now I’m not so sure. There are some basic skill deficits (trap the ball, hold onto the ball, make an accurate pass). Can you keep him around so you can answer the question definitively? Yes, but you can’t count on him, which means you need another solid – as in, very good – holding player.
- Fabregas – at his best was a really good playmaker who wasn’t quite good enough to stay on the pitch at Barca. Now he’s that, only older (31 in May) and, if it’s possible, slower. If he stays, it needs to be as a squad/backup to a new, world-class 10.
- Pedro – was great last year. But like Fab he was a guy Barca was okay letting go. He can be very good, but I don’t think anyone would argue that he’s good enough to start for a Champions League winner. He’s 30 and not getting younger.
- Victor Moses – solid squad player. I love the guy and am happy he was finally given a chance here. Tireless, very good defender. But limited in attack – how often does he get to within five yards of the corner of the box and stop like he ran into a wall? Not the starter we need.
- Marcos Alonso has outperformed every expectation and has turned into a holy terror on set pieces top of the box. I’d love to have a guy who’s all that and great in defense, but if him in the starting 11 is the worst problem you have, you’re going to need a bigger trophy case.
- Willian bleeds Chelsea and he’s been one of our best players this year – and maybe the best over the last couple months. If he’s your starting RW in a 3-4-3, that’s wonderful.
- Eden Hazard is an enigma. He hasn’t been great lately, but last year he was fantastic. The year before? Well, his ineffectiveness had a lot to do with Mourinho getting sacked (although whether it was his fault or Jose’s I guess we can argue about). When he’s on he’s one of the best five players anywhere. But he’s not on as reliably as we’d like – he can be taken out of the game, and some days it seems like he’s taking himself out. Plan A is he commits to being a Ballon d’Or winner and signs an extension. But if he wants to go and Madrid will pay what I suspect they’ll pay, well, you can buy a lot of skilled replacements for that kind of money.
- Alvaro Morata is, I believe, the player we saw early in the year. He hasn’t been right since getting dinged, and the basic fact is that at this elite level, with the defenders being so damned good, the difference between 100% and 99% can be meaningful. The difference between a goal and a goal kick can be a centimeter.
- Giroud – I have loved what he’s brought to the side despite the lack of goals. Very few strikers make a move in January and score a lot in the second half, but his energy has been encouraging.
- Do we have the striker we need? Hard to say right. Maybe. But if we get a crack at, say, Lewandowski, well, what do you think?
So there are my thoughts. I feel certain someone will see it differently…