By Shikharr Chandra
A second half goal from Fabian Delph meant that Chelsea's lead at the top was cut short to six points after Jose Mourinho's men succumbed to a defeat against Aston Villa. Chelsea's night went from bad to worse as they had both Willian and Ramires sent off, which means the Brazilian duo will be unavailaible against Arsenal next week. Here are three talking points from the game to dwell upon.
1. Do Chelsea really need a left-back?
Cesar Azpilicueta is a very intelligent player, as per Mourinho's thinking. The right-footed left-back has made the position his own despite this being his first season in his new role. The Spaniard has managed to keep Ashley Cole out of the starting XI and is arguably the best left-back in the league presently.
Azpilicueta's display was the only silver lining for Chelsea in a dismal away performance against Villa. The man they call 'Dave' attempted 64 passes in the game, completing 56 of them.
He's been Chelsea's unsung hero this season. Much credit has been given to Eden Hazard but Azpilicueta has been a regular performer at the back for Chelsea. Be it in games against Manchester City and Arsenal or Norwich and Crystal Palace, the level of Azpilicueta's performance has been consistent.
With Cole's contract ending this season, there are talks of the club signing a new player to fill in that void, with Luke Shaw being the most likely candidate. But do Chelsea really need to shell out €20-€30m for a position where they are already well assured? Also, in Ryan Bertrand and Patrick Vann Aanholt, the Blues have decent quality in reserve.
2. Chelsea need more from their attacking midfielders
Chelsea's over-reliance on Eden Hazard is worrying. For once, the Belgian looked a bit short of ideas in attack which resulted in Chelsea not really threatening Brad Guzan in the Aston Villa goal. The former Lille playmaker made a slow start to life under Mourinho, but has slowly and steadily become Chelsea's leading man.
Oscar on the other hand, has had a completely different story. The young Brazilian was seen by Mourinho as the man around whom he wanted to build his new side around but his drop in form at an alarming rate is a worrying sign not only for Chelsea but for Brazil as well.
Oscar's Brazilian team-mate, Willian too has failed to make the kind of impact many expected from him over the past few weeks. The former Shakhtar Donetsk playmaker has great energy and is excellent at tracking back and making runs but compared to Hazard, Willian's inability to score goals and provide assists on a regular basis leaves the team too dependent on the Belgian.
As per Squawka, Willian attempted four take ons and managed to complete just one whereas Oscar failed to create a single chance in the entire game. Willian's red card means Andre Schurrle could be given the nod from the start against Arsenal and should the German continue his decent run of form, the idea of giving him more time in the starting XI wouldn't be so bad.
3. The league table was indeed fake
Everything Mourinho says nowadays is chalked down to 'mind games'. From calling Chelsea the 'little horse' in the league to picking on Arsene Wenger in press conferences. But if there is one thing Mourinho was right to say over the past few weeks, it was that the league table was 'fake' and it was always Manchester City's to lose.
'You look at the table and, if you have just the number of points, the table is fake. Before the number of points is the number of matches. 'We could have 30 points more than them and have played 10 matches more, so it means nothing.
Manchester City put on one of the finest performances in the league this season by beating Hull City away from home with 10 men, after Vincent Kompany was sent off inside the first ten minutes. City who like Chelsea have had striking issues over the past few weeks, had David Silva to thank for getting them three valuable points which means that if they win their two games in hand, they will move ahead of Chelsea on goal-difference.
Chelsea though gave away a key chance to continue building pressure on the Manchester club, who have games against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool in the coming few weeks. There is no denying that by the looks of it, Chelsea's run-in is the easiest of all the title contenders but a failure to pick up points against Villa could come back to haunt them.
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