Chelsea 0 – 0 Valencia

Match reports

Daily Telegraph, John Ley: “Chelsea achieved another milestone last night when they extended their unbeaten Stamford Bridge record in all competitions to 50. Already assured of their place in next week’s Champions League knockout draw, and against a sadly inept Valencia showing nothing of their past brilliance, this was a canter and the result was predictable.”

The Guardian, David Hytner: “If Avram Grant’s reign as Chelsea manager took flight against Valencia at the Mestalla in early October, then there were more prosaic qualities on show in the Stamford Bridge return, and certainly less excitement. Consolidation appeared to be the order of the evening.”

The Times, Alyson Rudd: “Chelsea achieved the landmark of a half-century of matches without defeat at Stamford Bridge and Avram Grant, their first-team coach, could boast a 16-game unbeaten run after he opted to show Valencia precisely why his team qualified as group winners with a match to spare for the knockout stage of the Champions League. It was lively fare, but perplexing; Valencia barely resembled a side that had something to play for. Chelsea by contrast managed to enjoy themselves without putting their home record in peril.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “No Didier Drogba, no goals and not even 90 minutes for Andrei Shevchenko, the man who would be the new goal king of Stamford Bridge. Chelsea might have wondered how they failed to win this one but the more pertinent question for Avram Grant is who will score the goals against Arsenal on Sunday.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: “Both sides appeared happy to come off the field, Chelsea unbeaten and without injury, Valencia ready to catch the plane back to Spain as they prematurely crashed out of Europe.”

The good

  1. Fifty games unbeaten at home in all competitions. Our last defeat at Stamford Bridge was the 1-2 loss to Barcelona back in February 2006. All credit must go to Avram Grant for keeping the record going after Jose Mourinho’s departure, and for proving many people wrong. Long may it continue.
  2. The 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 formation used in the first half seemed to work quite well. 4-4-2 is the way to go if we want to get the best out of Andriy Shevchenko’s remaining talents. We must play to his strengths: quality through balls and crosses if we’re to have any chance of scoring more than the odd goal in coming weeks. He’s pretty hopeless in the Drogba role holding up the ball in a 4-3-3. I’m not entirely convinced Claudio Pizarro is much better. In fact, I tend to agree with Tony that Pizarro is more a “strolling coiffured ponce with shiny white boots” than Premier League class striker. How did a team of our undoubted quality end up with such a dearth of quality forwards? There’s some shopping to be done in the January transfer window.
  3. Wayne Bridge and Joe Cole. Over the 90 minutes Bridge was my Man of the Match. We’re fortunate to have two great English left-backs in the squad. Joe Cole only played the final half hour, but he made a real difference and was unlucky to come up against a keeper in top form.
  4. The fact that we had 18 shots at goal of which 11 were on target must be a good thing. Then again it highlights our profligate finishing. That said, Valencia’s goalkeeper Santiago Canizares played a blinder.
  5. The return of Petr Cech from injury. Doesn’t quite offset the loss of Drogba, but it’s always good to have the world’s best goalkeeper between the sticks.
  6. I saw Steve Clarke smile prior to kick-off.

The bad

  1. Valencia. How the mighty have fallen. They were inept. I lost count of the number of times one of their players misplaced a pass. Internal politics have had a devastating effect on a once great Champions League team. Many expected the same to happen to us after Mourinho’s departure. Thankfully it seems we’re going in the opposite direction. Moscow here we come?
  2. Lack of goals. Canizares prevented a rout but poor finishing cost us the victory.
  3. Salomon Kalou. Not just for his miss from three yards out either. While he has undoubted natural ability on the ball and can worry opposition defences with his mazy runs, his decision making, passing and final ball is more often than not very poor. And it’s not as if he’s improved since his arrival from Holland; the sense of deja vu I’m experiencing right now tells me that. Perhaps he should be tried up front with Shevchenko in a 4-4-2? He strikes me as a player who would do better with less time to think. I’d certainly play both Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole ahead of him in wide positions.

Man of the Match

Santiago Canizares. Wayne Bridge. In my eyes our most consistent player over the 90 minutes.

Final thoughts

If I’m honest, I’m not looking forward to Sunday’s game at the Emirates. Firstly, you have to wonder who, apart from Frank Lampard, will score us the goals we will undoubtedly need (it’s unlikely to finish 0-0). I’d like to see Grant try 4-4-2 – Cech; A. Cole, Terry, Alex, Belletti; J. Cole, Lampard, Mikel, Wright-Phillips; Shevchenko, Kalou – and play Arsenal at their own game. If he decides on a 4-5-1/4-3-3 with either Shevchenko or Pizarro in the lone striker’s role, we’ll be lucky to come away with anything. Here’s hoping Grant proves me very wrong, which he’s done a lot of in recent times.

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