Chelsea travelled to Villa Park without their lynchpin duo of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard...and boy did it show as they were held to a goalless draw.
A slightly disjointed performance attacking-wise led to Carlo Ancelotti’s men firing blanks in back-to-back away games in the Premier League - a stat that goes back over 20 months.
The Blues started the game knowing Manchester United had dropped yet more valuable points earlier in the day against West Brom.
A win would have opened up a seven point gap between the two sides but this did not seem to transcend upon the players however as Villa took the game to the champions and bossed the earlier battles with Ashley Young pulling the strings in the Villa midfield.
It was a first half in which Villa should have been leading, missing gilt-edged chances along the way, with Stephen Ireland going closes. Petr Cech saved well from John Carew too in those opening exchanges.
Chelsea bounced back in the second half, however, and should have scored, first through Ivanovic and then Anelka late on, both men rattling the Villa woodwork with the latter especially, somehow heading against the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Although Chelsea’s performance was better in the second half, they could have lost the game as Gearrd Houllier’s charges also hit the woodwork at the other end and Nigel Reo-Coker missing a one-on-one with Cech late on.
What was more concerning for Ancelotti though was how toothless his players looked in front of goal for most of the match.
Some may say it is unfair to point to the fact that Drogba and Lampard both didn’t play, however, a Chelsea team without those two and especially the former, is half the side and any team in the world would miss such gifted players.
Both players have contributed almost half the goals scored by Chelsea in the last four seasons so it is clear to see why the champions failed to match their early season swagger in the last third, shorn of the duo’s talents.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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