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Déjà Vu – It's Drogba Time

Monday 20th February 2012
In many ways the first half of the FA Cup tie against Birmingham perfectly summarises Chelsea's last couple of months. A ponderous and uncreative midfield combined with a blunt and under-supplied attack, mixed with an alarmingly regular defensive calamity.

Despite a marked improvement in the second half, mainly in the form of a sharper midfield and the again impressive Branislav Ivanovic's surging runs from right back, there were still very few clear cut chances created. None in fact, apart from Daniel Sturridge's well taken equaliser.

Chelsea seem to be at the same stage as they were in November, facing a run of critical fixtures. In November we comprehensively beat Newcastle 3-0 away, followed by an equally impressive 3-0 home victory over Valencia and a thrilling 2-1 win over Man City, thanks to a quality second half performance. This result was immediately followed by an outpouring of joy inside a positively bouncing Stamford Bridge, as Madness' ‘One Step Beyond' boomed around the Bridge. The sense of optimism was palpable, however an abject festive period proved this to be a false dawn.

So, after the extremely tough assignment of Napoli away we face a series of winnable league games (in theory), then a very important and potentially awkward FA Cup replay at Birmingham. What makes these fixtures all the more important is that our main rivals for fourth place, Arsenal, face Tottenham and Liverpool in successive league games. So our run of Bolton at the Bridge, followed by West Brom away and Stoke at home, presents a superb chance to seize the initiative in getting the final spot for next seasons Champions League.

When we faced our make or break scenario in November, it was our last chance to stay in both the title race and the Champions League. Unfortunately our abysmal form over the festive period left us having to compete not only with an injury-stricken Arsenal side lacking any real leadership and still reeling from losing two of their key players, but also with a Liverpool side who spurned their large transfer kitty on Carroll, Henderson and Downing and a rejuvenated, hungry Newcastle side.

This is not what many Chelsea fans had imagined at the start of the season. However, we are still in the Champions League for now, but will require a strong performance on Tuesday night if that is to continue. AVB has to, as he did in our last crunch Champions League game, revert to Didier Drogba as Fernando Torres looks completely bereft of confidence. His half time withdrawal against Birmingham may well act as the final and fatal blow to his uninspiring Chelsea career.

Admittedly Drogba didn't offer anything more than Torres on Saturday, but Drogba has to be the main man, as he so often has been on big European nights. Furthermore, his leadership and presence will be much needed in what is sure to be a frenetic atmosphere in Naples.

The next few weeks undoubtedly represent a huge test of AVB's ability and perhaps more importantly, the control he has over his team. We can only hope that Bosingwa and his hapless defending remain a safe distance from the pitch on Tuesday night and that an energetic midfield including Ramires and Michael Essien playing alongside Frank Lampard is preferred to the out of form Meireles or the ponderous John Obi Mikel.
Ben Carey-Evans

Total articles: 8

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