Business end calls for substance over style

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If Peter Crouch's thumping effort against Manchester City proved anything, it was that during the twilight of the Premier League season, cutting to the chase is more likely to breed success.

Early in the season, the division's most technically gifted players, the likes of Luka Modric and David Silva, were enjoying being the fulcrum of attention and their intricate passing and creativity came to the fore.

Even new additions Yohan Cabaye and Juan Mata were taking to English football like a duck to water, able to utilise their passing game effectively.

However, come the second half of the season, and the quartet have failed to make the same sort of impact.

Just four of Silva's 14 assists this season have come since the turn of the year, with 12 games since his last against Tottenham Hotspur in January.

The Blues midfielder Mata has endured a similarly torrid second half to the season. After averaging an assist every two games for the first four months of his Chelsea tenure, only three more have followed since December.

Cabaye is another who has found 2012 difficult to adapt too, and is yet to make an assist in the second half of the season. His defensive responsibilities have begun to take precedent.

Modric's own decline has come more as a result of his change of position, in the absence of Aaron Lennon, with Harry Redknapp more willing to employ Louis Saha in attack alongside Emmanuel Adebayor than have his chief playmaker in the middle.

Arguably with his side's form having been affected of late, Redknapp would be well served to employ Modric in the middle to regain some control in midfield, but his refusal to make that alteration points towards the manager's desire to have more protagonists in his starting XI.

Certainly in the example of Silva and Mata, who have both made the second most appearances for their clubs this season, their authority is diminishing.

Silva has failed to finish any of City last four games, and has been replaced on each occasions when City have been trailing. In three of those instances, Roberto Mancini's side have rallied in his absence.

While Mata is playing a more active role, his stagnant performances have contributed to a number of recent Chelsea failings. Saturday's draw to Spurs and the mid-week defeat to City serve as two examples that the persistence with Mata isn't assisting their results.

The reality is that for all four of the players mentioned, this time of the season isn't built for their flare and imagination. If Crouch exposed anything, it's that instinct and seizing the moment superseded a crafty, pretty approach.

When trophies, survival, and league places are up for grabs there is little space for style, and even in the Premier League, where technique plays more of a role than old fashioned attacking play, season-long principals are traded in during the run-in.

Come the end of the season, those who are unwilling to dilly-dally, are likely to be the ones tasting winners champagne.

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