When I initially saw that Chelsea’s starting XI against West Brom lacked key players like Mata, Oscar, Ramires and Ivanovic, I have to admit that I was disappointed by Roberto di Matteo’s decision at first.
I thought that this match was a must-win for us after we needlessly dropped crucial points over the past few weeks, and we desperately needed these three points to stay in touch with the two Manchester clubs above us.
As I tried to justify the manager’s selection, I realized that we had another must-win mid-week game in the Champions League against Juventus in Turin; maybe that was the reason for having those players on the bench. It could also be that these players played for their respective countries in midweek, and it was a simple matter of squad rotation and choosing the freshest players available.
For the umpteenth time this season, Chelsea were once again slow off the blocks and they went behind after just ten minutes courtesy of a Shane Long header.
While we had a lot of possession and were passing the ball around, it was evident that the players lacked fluidity in their play.
It was not surprising though, as this was the first time Torres, Sturridge and Moses were playing together up front, while Mikel and Romeu didn’t look comfortable playing together in midfield. The lack of chemistry between David Luiz and Ryan Bertrand at the back also proved costly when it eventually led to West Brom’s winner in the second half.
Negativity aside, if there is one thing I’m proud of in this Chelsea team, it is their never-say-die attitude. How many times have we seen them come back from a goal down to salvage a draw or even a win?
The matches against Spurs in the league, Manchester United in the Capital One Cup and most recently against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League have proved that this crop of players will never give up until the final whistle is blown.
When Hazard scored his first-ever headed goal to equalize at 1-1, you could not blame me for thinking that a comeback was on the cards. Unfortunately, it was not our night.
One has to remember though that the Premier League is a marathon and not a sprint. The fact that Chelsea are only four points off the top of the table, still in the Champions League and the Capital One Cup, with the FIFA Club World Cup and the FA Cup still to play for, indicates that the future is bright.
The manager will understandably rotate his players to keep them fit for the upcoming grueling schedule; with time, the chemistry and understanding between players will definitely improve. As fans, we have to keep faith and believe in the manager and the players.
After all, this is the Chelsea team that loves to prove critics wrong, just like they did last season.