I found the defeat at Stoke so difficult to stomach that I couldn't write directly after the game. It appears that I am in the minority though. Often comments, blogs and tweets increase considerably after defeat compared to victory.
The defeat was worse given the opposition we were playing on the day. How we are allowing that club to get the better of us at that ground is beyond me but the truth is, we were simply second best for stretches of that game, especially in the first half.
Instead of joining the pack of abuse hurling, I'd like to know why this happened. Not that I am able to give you any answers but I thought I'd throw a few questions out there.
While Borussia Dortmund may not be the force they were only a few short months ago they have been mightily impressive in the Champions League this season. It was only a couple of weeks ago where we put in a high intensity performance from start to finish. Closing them down all over the pitch and breaking on them with speed. We continued that at West Brom who admittedly are nothing to shout about at the moment but we gave them very little and that was shown in the amount of attempts the home side had at goal. Against Southampton our intensity had dropped somewhat and we found it difficult to break them down until the last minutes on the clock ticked away.
From what I could see our intensity started in the Manchester United defeat and has slowly dropped as the games have gone by.
At Stoke, especially in the awful first half we were ducking out of tackles on a number of occasions and I thought that was very strange at a place like Stoke where you need to stand up for yourself and win the right to play. As cliche as that sounds, I believe that to be the case in that type of away game.
It felt like we were trying to breeze through the game playing our way in second gear and it did not work in any area of the pitch. Either that we were trying to or just could not muster much more. We are now in December and chunks of our squad have missed large portions of the season. Debuchy, Koscielny, Arteta, Özil, Walcott and Giroud are all first or second (at the most) choice players and they have all been absent for significant parts of the season so far, whilst the likes of Rosicky, Campbell and Podolski do not figure in the managers plans very much these days for different reasons.
Just look at the drop off from Alexis, you can see that games are taking their toll.
Before you yell abuse at me on my way to the train station, I would like to point out that fatigue or injury would not be the only reason to point at but it seems an unavoidable factor. Having Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny out of a defence that is already short in numbers and then using a rookie right back however talented he is, isn't going to yield stability away from home against a direct, physical team like Stoke.
Defensively we were a mess, we looked a team that had never defended together or played together. It wasn't just the back four or the lack of commitment in the tackle but the cover from midfield was non existent.
I am no tactical mastermind but if energy is a concern wouldn't we be better served to defend with a low block and be compact, essentially abandoning the pressing game that had served us well a few weeks back. We could have looked to pick Stoke off with the likes of Alexis, who would probably find more space than when we are pushing up in the Stoke half without the sharpness to make any attacks count.
The second half was better in fairness and on another day, another day where Calum Chambers was not sent off for two pretty normal fouls, we might have snatched a draw or who knows, a late win but we will never know that now. It would have just been easier to have prevented 3 Stoke first half goals in the first place I guess.
I am going to skip past the video and all that because I was always told not to go to bed mad, so I shall heed that advice.
Interesting team selection changes for the Galatasaray game later today. Interested to know who plays as the main link player between midfield and attack. On paper you'd think it would be Oxlade-Chamberlain but Arsène has tended to use him deeper whenever he has come into a central position. It certainly won't be Flamini so don't be surprised to see Aaron Ramsey slot back into his old role as number 10 with Ox and Flam behind him.
We've had a disappointing start to the season and invincible Chelsea are likely to win the league but it's December and half our players are out injured. I don't quite get why the world is about to cave in just yet but hey, it's all about those opinions ey?
Good luck to the players in the last CL group game. I don't see us having enough momentum or continuity to win the game if I'm honest but I'd gladly take that if it meant we have a batch of fresh players for the weekend. Hopefully it will be a good game at least.
Match preview later on after some much needed kip.