Often a result doesn't tell the whole story.
Manchester City lost a Premier League game for the first
time this season, but have every reason to feel confident of lifting the title.
They can take heart from their performance in last night's
2-1 defeat at Chelsea, particularly in an excellent first half.
That's not to say they merited a win - more often than not
in football you get what you deserve, and what they got was nothing.
Yes they should have had a penalty, but otherwise City's
wounds were self-inflicted, through a failure to press home their early
advantage and a brainless sending-off.
So they played well and lost. Big deal. It happens.
Despite the mini-blip that has seen them tumble out of the
Champions League and have their Premier League lead cut to two points, City
look in fine shape.
As for Chelsea; they vanquished the unbeaten league leaders,
eased the pressure on their manager and brought a telling contribution from
Problem is, that contribution should never have happened.
Having missed his previous two penalties, Lampard slammed a
powerful shot down the middle eight minutes from time.
The Englishman conversed at length with Juan Mata before the
kick, and after the game Villas-Boas confirmed why:
assigned Mata to take it, but Frank took the ball off him
and he scored."
For a man of Villas-Boas's attention to detail, it seems
almost inconceivable that there should be confusion over who takes penalties.
Anyone who has played Football Manager knows you just have
to write a priority order of takers, and the guy who is highest on the list
takes the penalty.
Clearly, Villas-Boas changed the order before yesterday's
game, putting Mata ahead of Lampard.
Yes Lampard scored, but to disobey his manager's wishes amounts
to a serious breach of discipline, and does nothing to dispel the notion that
Chelsea's senior players wield too much power.
Fulham's Patjim Kasami was fined for committing the same offence
in the Carling Cup earlier this season, snatching a penalty designated for
Why should Lampard be exempt from the same punishment? The
outcome is irrelevant - he either put his own desire for glory and redemption ahead of the manager's instructions, or
simply thought he knew best.
In so doing, he showed a lack of respect for both Villas-Boas and Mata. That is unacceptable.
Otherwise, Chelsea's performance was one of defiant
resistance - a fading power holding off the coming force.
It was impressive stuff, but nothing to suggest they can
stay with City over the long haul.
When Yaya Toure departs for the African Cup of Nations, City
can replace him with Nigel De Jong or Samir Nasri.
Conversely, Didier Drogba's rumbustuous performance up
front, albeit without scoring, made you wonder how Chelsea will cope without the
Ivorian in January.
Chelsea are in the incredibly strange situation of being
short of strikers despite spending £65 million on two of them in the last year.
Granted, Romelu Lukaku is one for the future. But he has seen
just 47 minutes of Premier League action in four months, hardly suggesting he
is ready to step into a Drogba-shaped breach.
And what of Fernando Torres? The striker's quest for form
and confidence goes on, some 20 months after injury ended his 2009/10 campaign
with Liverpool - following a run of nine goals in seven games.
The Spaniard's woes are well known, but how long can a
footballer play badly before we are forced to adjust our assessment of him
I am still convinced that Torres will come good eventually.
But with each unhappy game, the reasons for that conviction become ever vaguer;
based in faith rather than fact.
Having looked like he might turn the corner in autumn,
Torres has now put together a nine-game barren streak and is a fully-fledged
Did you think, at any point last night, that Chelsea might
bring him on as a substitute? Even against 10 men? Of course not - the game was
too important for that. It was a time to back the proven performers.
Torres might get a start against Wigan on Saturday -
Chelsea's umpteenth attempt to spark him into life with a game against Premier
League cannon fodder.
Chelsea might have won the battle last night, but they still
look destined to lose the season-long war against City.