Date: 17th February 2016 at 4:09pm
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Last night the Parc De Princes hosted two of Europe’s finest in the first-leg of the Champions League round of 16 which pitted 2012 champions, Chelsea against the home side, Paris Saint-Germain. A lot transpired and as expected the grass was the worse for it as the two elephants battled for the spoils on offer – a place in the quarter finals.

Chelsea, in keeping faith with their theme of the season, were disappointing albeit not to the bookmakers as they lost the first instalment 2-1 as expected, although got the vital away goal from the most unlikely of sources. Here we take a cursory look at five of the things we learned in the course of the match.

1. Eden Hazard is a goner
The less said about him the better…the better for all our sakes.

Rat? The infamous Chelsea rat? The “mole” who would rather lose than win a game for Mourinho?

Or, perhaps, the Ballon d’Or hopeful who couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo?

Well, make of his dropped head all game – before and after his 70th minute substitution – whatever you want. Make of his goal drought and pathetic form whatever boils your potato. Believe whatever you want about his relationship with the sacked team doctor Eva Carneiro. One thing is for sure though: Hazard’s head has been turned a long long time ago, and on the evidence of his appalling anonymity last night against Paris Saint-Germain in what was for all intents and purposes our biggest game of the season, it is never getting back in its right place. Never!

Hazard is a goner as far as Chelsea Football Club is concerned.

But wait a minute, are you just hearing that for the first time here? Well, sorry folks; that little fella will be sold for a fortune in the off-season, and rightly so. Sad end all right, but vital for our team spirit and dressing room. Maybe to China or some other place on earth. But sold and gone he’ll be in the summer, and I’m not sure any true Chelsea fan can wait to see his back.

Having shamelessly flirted with the opposition just hours before the match, I’d have been gobsmacked if the Premier League’s best player last season, who’s since morphed into a shadow of his former self, put in a shift any less dire and bereft of life than what he’s been putting in all season.

Please can he be docked a week’s wage for conflict of interest, match fixing or sheer recalcitrance?

Pfft!

2. John Mikel is anything but a top drawer midfielder
Of the top five European superclubs, Chelsea have the weakest, wackiest and most wasteful midfield; and that is not unconnected to the philosophy(or what have you?) of having a midfield built around a player with the limited skill set of the guileless, immobile, placid and technically poor Nigerian.

The question to be asked is: would Mikel make the squads, never mind the starting elevens of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus? Or, and I’m overstretching here, those of Atletico Madrid, the Manchester clubs or even that of the wee Arsenal? Heck, can he even compete with anyone at Mauricio Pocchetino’s Tottenham these days?

Well, your answers say it all.

Last night, while Pedro and the rest of the lads – safe for the nondescript nonexistent and all together anonymous Hazard – were busy running, marking, hustling and hassling their asses off against an unbeaten PSG side, the human turnstile stood out, as usual, like a goddamned sore thumb.

Oh the bore! If he was not jogging around with his lackadaisical disposition and pretending to be earning his pay, he was nonchalantly giving away fouls, time and spaces all of which ultimately proved fatal to our ambitions on the night.

Whether his very very very rare goal will prove a vital away goal in the second-leg of the tie back at Stamford Bridge is another matter for another day, the mere fact that Mikel won 0 tackles, 0 aerial duels and, in short, 0 defensive actions all game tells you all you need to know about a defensive midfielder who divides and shares opinions in equal measure since his advent on English soil a decade ago.

I couldn’t care less if all Chelsea managers past and present considered him good enough and, as a result, playable; his shambolic showing last night gave him away as a limited midfielder whose days at Chelsea are numbered… numbered for an ‘unplayable’ midfield metronome to arrive.

3. Guus hasn’t got enough guts
No he hasn’t. In fact, it seems he’s scared stiff of taking minimal risks for potential maximal gains, despite only ever winning the cup just once in his career in 1988.

Does he care about his Chelsea legacy? This writer thinks he does only that he comes across as a scared old man too scared to either better or sully his latter-day sporting achievements.

For an interim manager whose time will be up in no time, it’s pretty disheartening to find the Dutchman naming all of Kenedy, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and golden boy Bertie Traore on the bench only for them to end up mere spectators with the only sub of the night coming in the shape of the increasingly frustrating Oscar.

What football manager makes a solitary substitution in an away match?

Blimey. Probably he’s taking cues from the rulebook with which Jose Mourinho ruled the roost in his ill-fated third season during his second stint at Stamford Bridge, where continuity – or meritocracy if you will – for a kid who performed in his last match is tossed to the dogs or maybe he didn’t learn anything from his excessively overcautious coaching of his country, The Netherlands before he got booted out. One thing is certain though, this Dutchman is playing a game not dissimilar to double dutch instead of ambitious football if he still thinks, in hindsight, that leaving on the likes of Pedro and Mikel who were both on yellow cards for the entirety of the match was the best way to go about getting something from the match.

I’m no football manager, just an armchair pundit who probably couldn’t do a worse job at Valencia than Gary Neville if and only if the powers that be at the Mestalla were a little more adventurous set of clowns, but I’m positive that at 1-1 bringing on Traore who didn’t only score a sublime goal against Newcastle on Saturday but also posseses a more direct goal threat than Oscar for Hazard, Loftus-Cheek or new boy Matt Miazga for the booked Mikel and probably Kenedy for the booked and exhausted Pedro wouldn’t have been the worst tactical tweaks in the world!

Alas, Guus obviously hasn’t got enough guts to take risks, risks that would have most likely won us at least a share of the spoils in gay Paris.

4. Baba Rahman can be the next Ashley Cole
With the ball at his feet, this kid is a joy to watch going forward. And last night, he sure was, wasn’t he?

Often criticised for being lightweight, defensively weak, inept, inexperienced and what not; the 21-year-old Ghana international apparently took all those in his stride and put in an assured shift worthy of adulation.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, he bossed the left back slot so well that PSG right winger Lucas Moura and left winger Angel Di Maria had to not only interchange positions but also cut inside most of the time to avoid the promising Chelsea left back.

Critics could argue that he once got skinned by Stoke City’s Xedran Shaqiri earlier in the season or that Edinson Cavani took advantage of his slack positioning in the build-up to PSG’s winner, but that would be like saying that Lionel Messi suffered a goal drought earlier this season or that the little Argentine wizard isn’t the G.O.A.T simply because he neither won a World Cup nor did it on a wet night at Stoke, wouldn’t it?

Nevertheless, the kid’s showing last night gave a lot of promise, especially to the optimists, and might even keep Technical Director Michael Emenalo in a job…assuming his job was ever up for debate in the first place. And without sounding recklessly optimistic, this boy might well turn out the next Ashley Cole.

Who wants to bet a dangley against this?

5. With Courtois in goal, keeping a clean sheet is an anomaly
Now I’m not insinuating that the Chelsea no.1 was directly culpable for the two we conceded on the night – for that it’s easy to blame, yes you guessed it, who else but the shambolic Mikel for first lazily conceding the foul on Moura and unwittingly getting on the end of the ensuing freekick by Zlatan Ibrahimovic which deflected away from Courtois and into the back of the net, and then standing around and allowing Di Maria the time and space he needed to pick out the unmarked Cavani who unforgivingly finished with his first shot at goal for their second – but I’m saying that his positioning for the second goal left much to be desired.

Often guilty and almost always punished for straying too far off his goal line throughout his Chelsea career so far, the 22-year-old Belgian international left his line, fluffed it and tried to make himself big as the Uruguayan hitman bore down on his goal only to leave his angles uncovered, and our European dream undermined.

Whilst it would undoubtedly be foolhardy to absolve our entire makeshift back line of blame for the painful loss, as their woes have been well-documented all season, last night however showed anyone who was watching closely how and why keeping a clean sheet for Chelsea nowadays with Courtois in goal is so much of an aberration: an anomaly, one even the Andros Townsends of this world are all too aware of and capable of exploiting.

Do we have a prayer of normalising this anomaly? Or, if I may paraphrase, will Courtois ever become the Premier League and Chelsea legend Petr Cech is? Time alone will tell, I guess.



Bonus:
Our boys are still afraid to shoot a football
Maybe it’s just me, the spoilt Chelsea fan who enjoyed the spectacle of seeing the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Gianfranco Zola and later the Frank Lampards and the Didier Drogbas of our great club pelt our opponents’ goals with a flurry of shots at any given opportunity with reckless abandon; maybe I’m just a little insatiable blinkered fan who would never see genuine effort at winning a match and appreciate same, but I thought our boys didn’t do enough to peck the Parisians’ advantage back, even when they were obviously there for the taking.

Several shooting opportunities presented themselves on a plater just as some were forced, but our boys were almost always afraid, shy, fidgety, pensive, undecided and even at times unaware when they make strides into the final third.

Of course, getting enough goals(or shots at goal, as it were) has been the problem with our football since the departure of Carlo Ancelotti in 2011 so it’s not as if yours truly was too disappointed or surprised at our profligacy and/or inaction, just that I saw it one time too many how Willian, Costa, Fabregas, Pedro and Hazard arrived at good “goal-shooting” positions only for them to retreat and recycle or give away possession. Even Mikel has now become a more prolific goalscorer than Hazard!

That the much-maligned Mikel was the one who got the solitary goal is indicative of this malaise, if not an indictment on our forwards’ wastefulness, although what made it worse for me was that we were neither even setup to play defensively nor was that PSG back line we saw last night the meanest we’ve come up against this season.

Granted they are enjoying an unbeaten season and are running away with the Ligue 1 title, but by conceding their first home goal in this season’s Champions League via a, ahem, John Obi Mikel effort, yours truly is hoping Guus and the boys saw what we all saw and make adequate or at least sufficient adjustments in three weeks.

Who says we can’t blitz them on our own turf with our shooting boots on?

 
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