Chelsea can't afford too many changes

Wednesday 3rd April 2013 9:35

Demba Ba: Celebrates with Mikel

Demba Ba: Celebrates with Mikel

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The FA Cup seems to be Rafa Benitez's priority, while Roman Abramovich prefers a top-four finish - but Chelsea FanZoner Dylan Clive wants both.

If you wanted a summary of Chelsea's season to date, the past few days pretty much tell the whole story.

The Blues were outplayed at Southampton in the Premier League on the Saturday, but worthy winners against Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday.

The lack of consistency is hugely frustrating and I am beginning to doubt if even my magic 8-ball has the ability to predict which Chelsea side will turn up on the day.

No-one is out to do Southampton a disservice. They were without question the best team on Saturday and thoroughly deserved the three points at St Mary's - but these are the games which teams chasing Champions League qualification need to be winning.

The attitude and work-rate of the Saints players was outstanding and their opening goal demonstrated exactly why they deserve to be and stay in this division.

Chelsea lacked creativity without Juan Mata or Eden Hazard and looked distinctly predictable when trying to break down a well-disciplined Saints back line. Issues of fixture congestion are widely documented and in my last blog, I mentioned how important team selection and rotation would be - but I was thinking more in terms of a couple of players being given the afternoon off, as opposed to a first-team slumber party.

Given that Southampton had already beaten Manchester City and Liverpool at home, there was no excuse for under-estimating the opposition and seven changes did seem a bit extreme. Granted, the line-up was still full of internationals and may ultimately have been justified by securing passage to another FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, but then where do our priorities lie?

There is plenty of speculation in the media that the aims of the football club may not mirror those of the manager. After all, trophies will look better on a CV then say the difference between fourth and fifth in the league.

That being said, it is worth pointing out that a trophy along with Champions League qualification is still a distinct possibility, and you do not have to have one without the other.

Personally, participation in the Champions League is an absolute must-have for next season. The mistake of too many team changes will not be made again so instead of looking behind at fifth place, let's start focusing on third and once more upsetting Tottenham fans. On top of that, everyone loves a good cup run and a trip to Wembley will be a fantastic occasion; we are two games away from retaining the FA Cup, so stop seeing it as a hassle that we have an extra fixture or two!

It is the magic of the cup that could inspire a fantastic end to the league campaign and anything that happens in Europe is a bonus. No disrespect to the competition but if given the option of either winning the Europa League this season or lifting the Champions League again next year, I know which one Blues fans would pick.

A word before I go on that Demba Ba goal. Any finish of that magnitude is worthy of a standing ovation and another look on YouTube, but to pull it out the bag and knock Manchester United out of the cup is a very special feat indeed.

To nonchalantly report that he had scored an identical goal against the same opposition last year did make me chuckle and it was a special strike from a player who is yet to completely settle at The Bridge.

Let's hope that can kick-start a good run of form because if the chairman and manager are both to be satisfied, then we will need plenty more moments of magic come the end of the season.

By Dylan Clive, FanZone's Chelsea blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @DylClive - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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