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Improved Defence The Key For Di Matteo

Wednesday 7th March 2012
Last night's comfortable 2-0 victory at St Andrews against a stubborn and well organised Birmingham side presented Roberto Di Matteo with a solid foundation from which he can build from.

Most importantly, the defence looked assured in dealing with the combined threats of a pacey and energetic Nathan Redmond and a big, strong Nicola Zigic.

Obviously keeping these two quiet by no means indicates that the Chelsea defence will be any better equipped to keep Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsik and co at bay, but it is a start.

The players seemed to display substantially more commitment than was visible during the limp 1-0 defeat at The Hawthorns on Saturday, where they seemed to lose every 50/50 challenge. This will please Di Matteo, as prior to the match he had stated his desire to see more passion from the players.

The Cahill - Luiz partnership seems to be improving by the game and it was certainly helped by Luiz's extreme (for him) safety first policy, as everything he could have booted into the stands he did, whilst his reading of the game remained excellent – he was definitely my man of the match.

The young Ryan Bertrand also impressed, as he produced an energetic and flawless performance. If Ashley Cole is back in contention come Saturday then Bertrand's performance will make Di Matteo's selection very interesting - he performed well above the levels that  Cole has been hitting in recent weeks, albeit against weaker opposition.

Another factor towards the improved defensive showing was unquestionably Mikel's performance, as he shielded the back four well and in turn provided a solid platform for the rest of the midfield to work from.

Whether or not these improvements will be enough to kick-start the rest of our season and propel us into fourth place is another matter. We remain three points off a rapidly improving Arsenal side who will take many positives from their brave efforts last night.

Furthermore, in Van Persie they have the best striker in the Premiership and a player who looks as though he can and will score at any time, which is hardly something that can be said about Chelsea's strikers at the moment.

Catching Tottenham is probably an unrealistic target, they have lost two in a row and could falter in the run in, but they still hold a seven point lead over us and can now look forward to a run of more winnable fixtures.

Despite Di Matteo's relative inexperience as a manager, his legendary status at the club means he will be afforded far more patience by the fans than his predecessor AVB ever was likely to get. Similarly it should help him command respect from within the dressing room.

Sacking managers is never a positive action to take, especially in the long run, but a new man can at times rejuvenate the squad and reap short-term rewards.

If Chelsea's short-term gains include a fourth place finish and another trip to Wembley then Abramovich's axe may yet prove to have been an unpleasant necessity.
Ben Carey-Evans

Total articles: 8

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