When Southampton opened the scoring at St. Marys, it looked like Chelsea was en route to another disappointing result. But even before that momentary set back, the Blues looked different. With new acquisition Demba Ba making his debut in front of a restored first choice XI (save the absence of the injured Petr Cech), Chelsea seemed to be a more balanced team, the Senegalese striker’s willingness to push the defense giving the Blues’ creators both a focal point and more space. The FA Cup holders would go on to a 5-1 win.
At the same time, those observations may be a subconscious playing to the narrative. Fernando Torres’s struggles have been so persistent and pronounced, perhaps any stylistic change was bound to be considered good, even if this kind of early judgment screams confirmation bias. When Roberto Di Matteo went without a striker for a short time mid-fall, it was hailed as a possible solution to the Torres dilemma, though (for whatever reason) it never took hold. Perhaps the same false optimism’s embracing the lastest variations.
But the results were there. Ba’s first goal (a 35th minute equalizer) we just cleaning up scraps, but the second was a goal we would not have seen from Torres (at least, we haven’t seen from Torres). Making a quick run toward the edge of the six-yard box, Ba made himself available to put a first touch shot past Artur Boruc, the type of execution a team with Chelsea’s creators should be getting on a regular basis.
By that time of the game, Chelsea was up 4-1. With a late penalty conversion from Frank Lampard, the Blues had another convincing victory, continuing a roller coaster winter that sees eight-goal wins complemented by losses to QPR and (in a final) Corinthians.
With that type of inconsistency, it would be hasty to make too much of Chelsea’s performance. But they did look better, and as Southampton showed over the first half hour, this wasn’t supposed to be an easy game.
But Chelsea made it one, and in the process again gave their fans reason to this the worst is over.