Chelsea 1 Birmingham 1: Lessons from a Stamford Bridge stalemate

What did we learn from Chelsea's disappointing 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday?

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
FA Cup, 18 February 2012, Stamford Bridge
team1
Chelsea
1 - 1
team2
Birmingham

Yet more pressure on Villas-Boas

André Villas-Boas looks to be on borrowed time at Chelsea. The Stamford Bridge crowd expressed their displeasure at the Blues’ lacklustre performance against Birmingham at the final whistle as boos rang out around the ground. The Portuguese’s tactics came under fire too. John Obi Mikel’s substitution was met by loud cheers as Salomon Kalou came on, but the Chelsea supporters reacted angrily when Juan Mata was substituted in the 83rd minute. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has met with Villas-Boas on several occasions in recent weeks, and the former Porto boss was forced to call a crisis meeting with his players following the Blues’ dire 2-0 loss to Everton. But the reaction from his squad on Saturday was underwhelming, and with their faith in the young manager apparently waning, Villas-Boas’ could well be set to get the boot.

Chelsea lack invention

Villas-Boas opted to use Mikel in a holding role despite his side facing Championship opposition at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea were devoid of any invention in the first half, as Raul Meireles struggled to find his usual passing rhythm, while Mikel’s conservative approach was ineffective. Daniel Sturridge was Chelsea’s most likely source of a goal, and he netted the equaliser after 62 minutes – his seventh strike in six FA Cup starts. The England striker was helped in the second half by Didier Drogba’s presence, with the 33-year-old Ivorian keeping Birmingham’s defence on their toes. Chelsea improved after the break following Mikel’s substitution, with Kalou providing another option going forward.

Hughton continues to impress in the Birmingham hot-seat

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley decided to call time on Chris Hughton’s reign mid-way through last season despite achieving automatic promotion with the Magpies. The 53-year-old left Newcastle in 12th position, but he made a return to management with Birmingham in June. After a difficult start, which saw Hughton’s side juggle their domestic duties as well as the demands of the Europa League, they are now one of the Championship’s in-form sides and are sixth in the table. And if Saturday’s showing is anything to go by, it won’t be too long before the former Republic of Ireland defender gets his chance to manage in the Premier League once again.

John Terry – Your club needs you!

John Terry’s leadership was sorely missed by a Chelsea defence devoid of any confidence, and crucially, any leadership on Saturday. Birmingham looked threatening from set-pieces, and the Londoners failed to take heed when the visitors sent in an early corner which caused confusion amongst the home side’s rearguard. The Championship side took the lead after 20 minutes, when Keith Fahey’s corner was allowed to float across Petr Cech’s area and David Murphy was on hand at the far post to volley home. Villas-Boas has rated his skipper as 50-50 to face Napoli in the Champions League in midweek, but after the Blues’ shaky display at the back on Saturday, Terry’s return simply can’t come soon enough.

Torres continues to toil

ESPN‘s Craig Burley described Fernando Torres as a “spent force” after the Spanish striker failed to trouble Birmingham’s defence, and was duly replaced by Didier Drogba at half-time. The 27-year-old admitted to the broadcaster ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup tie that he hoped his Chelsea career would have taken off by now, and conceded he just “can’t score” for the Blues. Torres hasn’t netted in 19 games, and the World Cup winner looks devoid of confidence and lacking in pace. The only winner in this sorry saga appear to be Liverpool – the former Atletico Madrid skipper scored 81 goals in 142 appearances, before moving to Chelsea for £50m. But then again the Reds did splash out £35m on a misfiring Andy Carroll. Nevertheless, Torres’ career looks to be on life support.

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