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Guillem Balague Website

Chelsea: Joe Cole and Deco have a lot to learn

I was at Stamford Bridge last night to watch Chelsea's 4-0 demolition of Bordeaux in the Champions League. However, in spite of the win, Phil Scolari has dominated the headlines after saying that "We (Chelsea) didn't play very well." Many have interpreted the Chelsea coach's comments as an attempt by a demanding manager to play down expectations.

However, I feel Big Phil had a point and I must say, after looking back on my notes from the game, I agree with him: Chelsea will need to do a lot better, against tougher opposition, if they want to lift the Champions League trophy for the first time next May.

Speaking in the post match press conference, Scolari told us "You need to control the game more and we didn't control it very well in the second half. We know that we made many mistakes between 55 minutes and near the end."

I felt, watching them last night, that to be successful and beat the very best sides in Europe, a number of Chelsea players will need to do a lot better: particularly Joe Cole who must learn to vary his game and play at differing tempo's. Cole needs to appreciate that there are different rhythms to the game and he needs fine tune his ability to read a game, to play with intelligence and judge when best to attack and when to play it safe.

Scolari knows all about man management - he's one of the best in that department - and he refused to point the finger at any individual players in his assessment of last night's performance, but I have a suspicion that he will be having a few words with Joe Cole in private.

As Scolari said afterwards, "We tried to attack every time with not good connections." He didn't name Joe Cole, but the England midfielder's substitution speaks volumes.

Cole wasn't the only culprit, however, and a number of player's were guilty of giving the ball away when they should have been controlling the game better. Deco still has a lot to learn about his team mates. He still needs to adjust to the Premiership and to the capabilities of his new colleagues. A legacy of his time at Barcelona, the Portuguese midfielder was over dependent upon short passes against Bordeaux, when a more balanced range of passing would have been more effective in retaining possession.

Why? Well this isn't the Camp Nou, this is Stamford Bridge and, as good as his Chelsea team mates are, Deco no longer has Xavi and Iniesta alongside him. He needs to realise that he can no longer rely upon short, quick, intricate passing in all areas of the pitch: his team mates are good, very good, but they don't play the same way as his former colleagues in Barcelona. As a consequence, Deco was guilty of gving the ball away, or playing team mates in to trouble in key areas. As Scolari said afterwards, "They made many mistakes when they had the ball. When you're 2-0 up at half time in the Champions League, you have to work harder."

Another player who still has much to learn at this level is John Obi Mikel. Again, without naming any names, Scolari said "Other teams, arriving in front of goal, might have hurt us quicker. If they'd had more quality, it would have been dangerous for us."

As far as I can see, Mikel does not look totally confident in his role and he takes far too many risks. As Scolari said, and I agree, he and his colleagues got away with it against Bordeaux, but they will certainly be punished by better sides in bigger games. Is that a fair assessment?

It's easy to sit here and be critical, however, and there were some very good points that stood out on the night. Bosingwa was impressive in the way he seemed to have complete ownership of the right flank. He gives a new dimension to Chelsea's play and is a very useful option against sides, like Bordeaux, who will try and narrow the pitch by defending very deep. And let's give credit where it is due: Bosingwa cannot operate like that without the support of his teammates, and both Deco and Mikel very worked hard to cover his back.

In fact, the way that this Chelsea side are all working hard for each other is impressive: even Anelka is tracking back!

And what about Frank Lampard? What a player! He is absolutely fantastic in a Chelsea shirt and makes an impact in every area of the pitch. He is particularly effective at arriving in the box and that is the fundamental difference between his performances in the Blue of Chelsea and the White of England. Capello has other players in the hole, just behind the forwards, but Scolari reserves that area of the pitch for Lampard and encourages him to dominate in that area.

My question for Chelsea fans is this: How do you feel about Scolari lining up with the same starting eleven all the time?

Yesterday, we had a discussion with Spurs fans about Juande's preference for constantly tinkering with his side, and I defended his decisions on the basis that this is a now a squad game, with a lot of games coming thick and fast across a long season.

Can Scolari afford not to be resting his key players from time to time? It seems that while Chelsea may have the best first eleven in the Premiership, do they have a good enough squad? Will we see a repeat of what has happened under Mourinho in the past, where Chelsea's key performers are exhausted at the end of the Premiership campaign?

Do Chelsea have the squad, and the options, to mount a challenge for both the Champions League and the Premiership this season, and should Scolari start giving his key players a break?

The seasons only started ffs and this guy wants to know if key players should start getting a break ?

Our squad is already paper thin as it is. Defensively we're well sorted for cover, but the midfield and up front we do look uncomfortably short in cover. Belletti looks as though he'll be getting games in midfield to help out and Ivanovic I think can play as a defensive midfielder should Mikel get injured/suspended. Ballack is the only real option in midfield to come in (in terms of it being his natural position). Di Santo really needs to be given game time if we're to do well this season. If Drogba and/or Anelka again get injured/suspended we'll be relying on him to be our main striker, and thats alot of pressure to put on his shoulders at this stage.

There are options out there who we can bring in such as Appiah, but it remains to be seen if anyone will be brought in. With the long season ahead, although we're doing well atm, a few injuries here and there and we're snookered.

Edited by Tri-Blue
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Yeap, it's the start of the season and he's talking about resting players ? As far as I can see, we don't play the same 11 all the time. I think only this time we played the same 11 as against City.

Let's not make up problems, when there aren't any (yet). I trust the staff to think about this kind of things in advance and be prepared.

Although he has a few points, but I think it's another "let's make small things big" kind of article. Everything's under control (of course I believe so).

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We are doomed i tell ya! We won 4 - 0 last night and we are top of the league after some excellant performances... what are we going to do!!!!!!

Yes the performance wasn't the best last night, but would we play like that against the bigger boys? Of course not!

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He's got a point about the squad - Scolari getting rid of so many without bringing in quite enough as cover was naive and highlights his inexperience as far as a long, hard season in the PL is concerned. I'm sure he'll address this in January but until then hopefully we'll manage with what we've got. Besides, I'd rather play a consistent first eleven than change it on a weekly basis like Rafa.

As for resting players now, ffs some of them have missed games already, give them a chance to warm up at least. On Deco's game, I agree with what he said and probably Cole to an extent, but Mikel? Don't agree with him there, I think Mikel's doing a great job considering the boots he's been asked to fill - and again he's only had a couple of games himself this season. Personally thought he did a solid job last night.

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