Mikel most at fault as Chelsea close in on unwanted record
The selection decisions revolving around Fernando Torres and Cesar Azpilicueta will be the most discussed after Chelsea’s defeat against Juventus, but it was in central midfield where the game was mainly lost.
Roberto Di Matteo’ ploy to play Eden Hazard up front alone was working perfectly fine until Chelsea fell behind, at which time he was forced into a more attacking forward position in search of an equaliser.
He was making intelligent runs from deeper positions and was involved in two great Chelsea first-half chances.
Meanwhile, Azpilicueta did what was expected of him in preventing Kwadko Asamoah having a telling attacking influence on the game.
Asamoah was especially ineffective when compared to his fellow wing-back Stephan Lichtsteiner, who hit a post and regularly found himself in dangerous positions, either near the byline or in the Chelsea penalty box.
Therefore, it was not these selection decisions that leave Chelsea on the brink of becoming the first Champions League winners to fail to make the knockout rounds in the following season.
Chelsea are now 11/5 to progress from Group E, which they can only do by beating Nordsjaelland at Stamford Bridge and hoping that already-qualified Shakhtar win at home to Juventus.
If any individual had a below-par night in Turin it was John Obi Mikel.
Mikel’s role is hard to gauge at the best of times, largely positioned to provide some defensive cover if the Chelsea full-backs are caught too far forward.
But he is not overly effective at breaking up play, making interceptions or winning the ball.
Arturo Vidal was the most advanced of Juventus’ three central midfielders, but Mikel hardly got near him all night, while he also failed to pick up any home attackers dropping into his zone of the pitch, which caused more than one heated debate with David Luiz.
Furthermore, his distribution when in possession was poor, fluffing even some short passes on more than one occasion which invited some additional pressure.
Oriol Romeu is the obvious alternative in the position, but he has hardly looked like the star of the Barcelona youth academy that he was touted to be.
A new striker is expected in the January transfer window, with Radamel Falcao tipped to arrive and the jokes have already begun that the move will be funded by all of the money Chelsea have saved in anticipated Torres goal bonuses.
A new holding midfielder could be just as pivotal though to offer a better shield to the back four and instigate attacks.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date