Stoke look stuck with their old reputation
Talk to any Stoke employee, or supporter about Stoke’s tactics these days and they will insist their style of play has changed for the better.
In front of the TV cameras though, anyone tuning in would have seen little difference between the bruising antics once employed by their old manager Tony Pulis and what his successor Mark Hughes used here.
Chelsea players were kicked and battered from the first minute to the last, much to the chagrin of a clearly irate visiting manager Jose Mourinho. For example, Phil Bardsley was lucky to escape with just a yellow card for a vicious tackle on Eden Hazard.
There is nothing wrong with trying to unsettle your opponent, but do not make out you’re a saint when you’re a still a sinner.
Cesc Fabregas can play where he wants
Most of the Spain international’s best Chelsea performances have been alongside Nemanja Matic in front of the back four. Last night, Mourinho decided to field the 27-year-old as a No 10 instead, giving Oscar a rest on the bench.
Once again he was one of Chelsea’s most influential players, passing with confidence and more often than not, finding a blue shirt. It says a lot that even his late scuffed shot found the target. Playing closer to Diego Costa made their understanding all the more pleasing to the eye.
Bojan couldn’t make Mourinho anxious this time
Stoke’s playmaker has been earning a few plaudits of late, which prompted the Chelsea manager to express concern over whether he could trouble him again.
Bojan had a goal disallowed for offside in the Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Mourinho’s Internazionale in 2010 which would have knocked the latter out. While he may have shown some nice touches against Chelsea, he did very little in the final third to give the Special One any such palpitations this time around. Perhaps if Stoke had concentrated more on kicking the ball rather than the men in blue, he might have had more of an influence.
Inability to kill teams off early could cost Chelsea
Not for the first time this season, Chelsea dominated a game from the outset but did not make their superiority count on the scoreline.
Stoke were in with a chance till late on as Chelsea failed to convert their possession and chances into a healthier advantage. It meant the visitors were just one mistake or good bit of play from conceding an equaliser and dropping crucial points on the road.
This weakness has already cost them at Manchester City, Manchester United, Sunderland and Newcastle and is why the former are still within close range going into the Christmas period.
Terry’s contract situation needs to be resolved
Chelsea left it till May to hand their captain a one-year extension last season, surely the powers that be will make a decision sooner this time.
It is games like this where the 34-year-old proves he is still the best defender and leader in the squad. The towering header which put Chelsea in front inside two minutes epitomised his desire for a fourth Premier League crown. He is a player Chelsea cannot live without.
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