My thoughts on Chelsea v Reading.
Reading played a textbook 4-5-1 with 3 central midfielders to stifle midfield passing (ironically reminiscent of Chelsea v Barca). Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 actually struggled to break through for long periods as Reading’s strategy was working in the middle and they couldn’t get enough width to break it. The big battle of this game was on the flanks between Reading’s wingers who weren’t particularly suited to defending, and Chelsea’s fullbacks who were trying to bomb on and provide the width. In the end, though the latter won, the game turned on Reading’s goalie error when they were leading 2-1 and sitting far too deep. The next (offside) Chelsea goal came from width (Cole’s assist). The final goal also developed down the wing, though obviously it was a bizarre one with no goalkeeper present.
Ivanovic v Cole
Just as the members stats said, basically. Ivanovic was further forward and he drifted more central. Unlike Cole, he was happy to play on the inside when interchanging with the wide midfielders. Might have been a bit of shock when you saw Hazard cut the ball inside to Ivanovic to score the final goal. Hard to comment on the defensive performances; the Reading goals came from both flanks, though they weren’t straightforward chances so it’s hard to assign fault.
Mata v Hazard
It’s very clear that Hazard is playing furthest forward. Mata is playing much deeper than you’d think when he is described as playing in the hole. He can play deep as Ramires and far behind Hazard. His job in the team is primarily to sustain the passing, not to score or assist, and he may well suffer from assist-the-assister syndrome (technically this was the case for Cahill’s goal as he passed to Hazard who passed to Cahill – it was hardly a goalscoring opportunity though). Mata did have two shots off target when Reading sat deep, though in both cases he was still behind multiple Chelsea players. One of his few points opportunities was his excellent cross from a free kick, but if you wanted someone for set pieces it would be Lamps. Basically, I think Mata is this year’s Modric.
Torres simply didn’t get good service, and I think that’s as much something to worry about as his supposed flakiness. He was massively outnumbered as the lone forward with not only two center backs but three central midfielders surrounding him. Chelsea’s midfield is not actually built as many of us expected – to feed Torres with through balls. The midfielders get forward and try to have a go themselves, with most of the crosses coming from overlapping fullbacks, one of which Torres scored from. Torres often is trying to create for the midfielders instead of vice versa, holding up play and drifting wide. The sad thing is that Torres craves through balls – the perfect example is the one Ramires played to him in the Community Shield. The only player I see as consistently able to deliver these is Mata, and he’s way too deep.